Tag: Juilliard School

Ben Williams is an acclaimed Washington DC-born and-based singer/songwriter, bassist, composer, bandleader and highly sought-after collaborator. Williams graduated from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Michigan State University and The Juilliard School, winning the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition(now known as the Herbie Hancock  International Jazz Competition) back in 2009 and a Grammy Award as a member of Pat Metheny‘s Unity Band. He has collaborated with an impressive and remarkably diverse array of artists including Wynton Marsalis, George Benson, Maxwell, Robert Glasper, Pharrell and a long list of others. (He also appeared in Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead.)

As a bandleader and composer, Williams has released two albums through renowned jazz label Concord Records — 2011’s State of Art and 2015’s Coming of Age. Slated for a February 7, 2020 release through Jose James‘, Talia Billig‘s and Brian Bender’s Rainbow Blonde Records, Williams third album I AM A MAN references Memphis‘ historic 1968 sanitation workers’ strike, during which African American men marched through the streets with picket signs that read “I Am A Man” in a boldface type. “The image of this long line of men, holding the picket signs, all saying the same thing — there’s something powerful about seeing this message over and over again,” Williams explains, before saying that the messaging reminded him of how we use hashtags today to help ignite and inspire activism today, such as the Black Lives Matter and MeToo movements. But there’s multiple subtle meanings to the album’s title: as Williams said during his performance at the Rainbow Blonde Records NYC Winter Jazz Fest last week the album wasn’t a typical protest album; that it was thematically an exploration of the black male psyche.

Sonically, the album reportedly meshes past, present and future, as it seemingly draws from The Roots, Erykah Badu, Bilal, D’Angelo, Common, Roy Hargrove‘s RH Factor as well as Marvin Gaye‘s What’s Going On, Curtis Mayfield and others.

Williams plays both double bass and electric bass throughout the album’s material, singing lead vocals on almost every single song on the album. He’s joined by an accomplished backing band of collaborators that includes Kris Bowers (keys), David Rosenthal (guitar), Marcus Strickland (tenor sax, bass clarinet), Bendji Allonce (percussion), Keyon Harrold (trumpet), Anne Drummond (flute), Jamire Williams (drums) and Justin Brown (drums). The album also features a handful of songs with  string arrangements performed by a string quartet — Justina Sullivan (cello), Celia Hatton  (viola), Maria Im (violin) and Chiara Fasi (violin), and vocals from Kendra Foster, Muhsimah, Wes Felton and Niles.

The album’s first single is the cinematic “If You Hear Me.” Centered around an spacious and cinematic arrangement featuring a shimmering and soaring string arrangement, African polyrhythm, Williams’ plaintive and soulful vocals, the track manages brings to Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield and Landing on a Hundred-era Cody Chesnutt to mind. The album’s second single, fittingly released today is an atmospheric rendition of the civil rights-era classic “We Shall Overcome” that places the song’s timeless struggle and hope for a far better, more just world into a contemporary context:  reminding the listener that the struggle of MLK, Malcolm X,  The Black Panthers and others,  is the same struggle as Black Lives Matter and other movements.

Williams will be embarking on a handful of live dates that includes a February 8, 2020 album release show at Nublu 151. Check out the live dates below.

 

Tour Dates
2/8: New York, NY @ Nublu 151 (Album Release Show)
3/19: Washington, DC @ City Winery

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site throughout the course of its seven year history, you may have come across a post or two featuring the up-and-coming New York-born and now Los Angeles-based pop artist and multi-instrumentalist  Beca. Receiving classical training at Juilliard, the New York-born, Los Angeles, CA-based pop artist forged her own path away from her formal training as she sought out opportunities to explore avant garde electronic music, compose for amplified string instruments and NYC’s underground club culture — all of which had been influences on her and her later work.

Since 2012, Beca has released two EPs through British label This Is Music Music, Ltd., self-released her full-length debut Ecliptic in 2015 and worked with Midnight Magic‘s Morgan Wiley. Beca has received praise from the likes of Flaunt, Galore Magazine, Lucky Magazine, received airplay from over 50 stations nationally including NPR’s “The Essentials” and KCRW, and she’s had her work remixed by the likes of Ashley Beedle, Klic, Night Drive and others.  Along with that, Beca was once a finalist in the International Songwriting Competition and the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. And adding to a growing profile, the up-and-coming artist has played at CMJ, SXSW, Miami Fashion Week, Sundance Film Festival, POP Montreal and NXNE and she’s toured across the US, Europe and Mexico.

Beca’s latest effort, the Blake Robin and Fabian Ordorica-produced, six song EP, In Deep Love is slated for release on September 15, 2017 and the album finds the up-and-coming New York-born, Los Angeles-based artist further cementing her reputation for crafting material that draws from 80s and 90s synth pop paired with lyrics influenced by mythology, classical music, film, art, romantic stories and her own personal life. EP title track and lead single “In Deep Love” is a shimmering and propulsive, club-banger that sonically seems indebted to Giorgio Moroder-era disco and 80s freestyle but while dance floor friendly, the song is under-pinned by a bitter heartbreak — the realization that you may have to let go of someone you love and accept the idea that there won’t be a future with that person. And while it may be painful, it’s the best thing for both people involved.