Neo Fusion: 2010
HARLEM LATE NIGHT JAZZ Presents:
Neo Fusion: 2010
The Jazz History Tree
Neo fusion is a term I am coining to describe what I believe to be a new genre of jazz emerging in the 2010s. I admit I’m out on a limb in the sense that I am trying to define where music is going. That can only be determined by the jazz world and its audience. Neo fusion offers a fresh blend of classic jazz, soul, bop, blues, and gospel merged with elements of the new millennium genres of hip-hop, hip-hop jazz, neo soul, funk, rock, and world.
A new kind of fusion (neo fusion) is led by artists (steeped in jazz) who came of age influenced by hip-hop, neo soul, go-go, funk, and reggae, but are now reaching back to the roots and reinvigorating the entire tree. Call and response, ring shout, gospel, blues, work songs, and the drums are being reinvigorated and re-introduced in new ways.
This new music is cross-generational and global in appeal. I believe it’s starting to repair the riff that began with bebop’s lack of “danceability” and was acerbated with the rise of hip-hop—particularly, hip-hop-only radio stations, which cut the branch from the trunk. These neo fusion trailblazers are feeding the entire Jazz Tree back to its roots.
This genre can be best defined by the cadre of extremely talented, creative, well-trained, courageous, soulful, and funky artists who are leading the charge. These new artists cross boundaries and are unabashedly fusing the genres and reinvigorating the entire Tree. These artists include the following:
Kamasi Washington (Saxophone)
In 2015, Kamasi Washington released The Epic, setting him on a path to be this generation’s standard for progressive, improvisational music that would enable young audiences to experience jazz. Featuring his 10-piece band, the Next Step, the 172-minute album contains elements of hip-hop, classical, and R & B music—all major influences on the young saxophonist and bandleader.
Hailed by NPR Music as “the next great male jazz singer,” California-born singer and songwriter Gregory Porter’s music career began over twenty years ago, though it wasn’t until he moved to New York City and performed regularly at Harlem’s legendary St. Nick’s Pub that his career really took off.
Brandee Younger (Harpist)
Brandee Younger is a harpist and composer based in New York City. Brandy displayed her talents playing on Makaya McCraven’s Universal Beings. Her own release, Soul Awakening, featuring Ravi Coltrane and trumpeter Sean Jones, is an extraordinary display of her creativity.
The Hot Sardines
Formed in Manhattan by New York City native Evan “Bibs” Palazzo and Paris-born “Miz Elizabeth” Bougerol, the Hot Sardines are a troupe of gifted musicians that take inspiration from early American jazz and count music greats like Thelonious Monk, Django Reinhardt, and Billie Holiday among their influences.
Portland, Oregon-born jazz singer, bassist, and cellist Esperanza Spalding displayed prodigious talents from an early age playing violin with the Chamber Music Society of Oregon. She burst onto America’s jazz music scene with the release of her debut album Junjo in 2006, receiving favorable reviews from the likes of the New York Times’ critic Ben Ratliff. Since then, Spalding has gone on to win multiple Grammys, including Best New Artist of 2010 (she was the first jazz musician to be awarded this title) and Best Jazz Vocal Album for 2012’s Radio Music Society.
Twenty-eight-year-old Jazzmia Horn is an American jazz singer and songwriter of African ancestry. She won the Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition in 2015. Horn’s repertoire includes jazz standards and covers of songs from other genres and artists such as Stevie Wonder. By age twenty-three, Jazzmia “Jazz” Horn had earned a reputation in New York City as a dynamic music artist.
Jazz pianist and producer Robert Glasper may not be your typical jazz musician, considering his fusion of the genre with styles like R & B and hip-hop, yet his deft merging of genres makes him stand out among his contemporaries. By his mid-20s, Glasper had already performed with jazz greats, including Terence Blanchard and Christian McBride, and released a succession of acclaimed albums, including the Grammy-nominated Double-Booked (2009), all of which confirmed his rising star. Glasper’s revered 2012 release Black Radio demonstrated his talent for jazz fusion and scooped a Grammy for Best R & B album in 2013.
Lakecia Benjamin (Saxophone)
Born and raised in New York City, saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin came to jazz from the angle of funk and soul. She was reared on the music of James Brown, the Meters, and Sly and the Family Stone. As she set out on her own in the music world, she brought those influences with her, mixing them with the prodigious jazz chops she acquired as a student at Fiorello LaGuardia High School and The New School.
Growing up in Houston, Texas listening to genres as diverse as gospel, R & B, and classical, Kendrick Scott’s odyssey began at the age of eight when his parents gifted him a drum kit. His dedication and talent saw him awarded a place at his hometown’s prestigious Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. His later career has included tours with legends like Herbie Hancock and Terence Blanchard. In 2007, he established his music collective, the Kendrick Scott Oracle, whose ambitious 2007 debut The Source was followed by Conviction in 2013.
Omar Edwards (Tap)
Omar Edwards is a gifted dancer, entertainer, and musician who has been in love with tap since he was twelve years old. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Omar draws his dancing from twenty-three years of experiences and formal training. He also starred as the “Sandman” on the legendary T.V. show Showtime at the Apollo for seven years. He has performed with Savion Glover live at the White House and was also a featured guest on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Mathew Whitaker is a rare, extraordinarily gifted prodigy. At nine, Matthew began teaching himself how to play the Hammond B3 organ. Four years later, he became the youngest artist to be endorsed by Hammond in its eight-plus year history. He was also named a Yamaha Artist at fifteen, becoming the youngest musician to join this stellar group of jazz pianists. In 2010, Matthew was a winning participant in the Child Stars of Tomorrow competition as part of Amateur Night at the Apollo. Mathew was also the 2019 & 2020 The Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers Award winner for his original compositions “Emotions” & “Underground.”
An “artivist,” poet, song writer, actress, dancer, and playwright, Harlem-based artist Sista Zock’s music straddles the fence between spoken word/song and jazz hip-hop and jazz. Zock has been performing in and around NYC since 2006. She has performed with Dennis Davis, Gregory Porter, Chip Crawford, Lakecia Benjamin, Aziza Miller, Lady Cantrese, and Kelvyn Bell. Sista Zock celebrated her musical debut on season two of Spike Lee’s Academy Award winning She’s Gotta Have It (2019), whose trailer featured the hit song “You Should Know That,” off her debut album Zock Solid: Where the Stem Meets the Root.