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The Justin Brown Sessions ft/ special guest Ambrose Akimusire

Thursday, January 6, 2022

$25 – $35
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Seating times: 7:00pm & 8:30. Doors open 30 minutes early.


JAZZ@theEDGE! Presents The Justin Brown Sessions

Justin Brown
Joe Cleveland (Bass)
Chris Fishman (Keys)
Ambrose Akinmusire (Trumpet)

Bay-Area native Justin Brown was born and raised in Richmond, CA, in a musical family. His mother, Nona Brown, is a respected singer and pianist who worked for years with the gospel icon Edwin Hawkins. Brown attended Berkeley High School, where he was part of a crowd of young musicians who would eventually become pros (Jonathan Finlayson, Thomas Pridgen, Charles Altura). After quitting Juilliard, he tried one more time to find an academic setting that might work, enrolling in the Manhattan School of Music a year later. But just as the semester started, he got called to go on tour with Kenny Garrett, the primo alto saxophonist whose illustriuous career includes hallmark stints with Miles Davis and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. 

Today, at 34, he is one of the most highly regarded drummers in music. For many years, he has held down the drum chair for trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and pianist Gerald Clayton, both childhood friends. Since 2014, Brown has been playing festivals and rock clubs around the world with Stephen Bruner, the bassist/vocalist known as Thundercat, oddball prince of modern-day fusion, who skates between jazz, hip-hop and psychedelia. (he also collaborates with Flying Lotus, Esperanza Spalding and Terence Blanchard, to name just a few.)

Frequent collaborator Ambrose Akinmusire describes playing with Mr. Brown in admiringly abstract terms. “It feels like you’re making music with an element. He feels like nature, he feels like water, like the earth,” he said. “What nature does, it just blows a little wind in your face, and that can mean that there’s a storm coming. The tide coming in means something. I think that’s something that he’s developed in his playing more recently.”

In 2018, Justin Brown released his debut album, Nyeusi (Swahili for “black”). The album includes 11 original compositions written during the past 10 years. Much of the album—featuring Jason Lindner and Fabian Almazan (both on keyboards), Mark Shim (electronic wind controller) and Burniss Earl Travis (bass)—was recorded in 2015. It would be too simple to call the record a hybrid of his work with Mr. Akinmusire and Mr. Bruner, though stylistically it does incorporate both Mr. Akinmusire’s flair for irresolution and the woozy, wafting ambrosia of Mr. Bruner’s music.

Mostly it’s a ringing testament to Mr. Brown’s own, unmapped path. Burniss Earl Travis’s fortified bass and the swarming force of Mr. Brown’s drums work as a kind of magnetic therapy, softening your senses and opening your ears.

The Black Cat Is Curious…
(9 questions, of course, with a bonus 10th)

1.  What things are inspiring your creative energy in this moment?

I’ve recently come off tour which was inspiring to travel and play music again for people. Breathing, family, being black, art and food keeps me inspired.

2.  What music have you been listening to recently?

Geri Allen, FireToolz, Música Urbana, Once and Future Band, anything with crazy drums(LOL)….etc

3.  What set you on your life’s path in music?

The Miles Davis 60s quintet, and seeing Dennis Chambers for the first time when I was 15.

4.  What artist (living or dead) would you like to share a stage with for one night, and why?

There are to many to people that are not with us anymore that I wish I could have made music with. Even the ones that are still here. There’s too many to name. I will say people who truly know me know that it was a dream of mine for many years to share the stage with Georgia Anne Muldrow and then BAM. I’m forever grateful for that.

5.  Your favorite vinyl is spinning.  What are you drinking?


6.  Likely there are many…but name one person/place/thing that has helped shape you as an artist?

Berkeley High School 1999-2002

7.  You get one album to take to your desert island.  Name it.

That’s too tough to answer.

8.  What is a musical or creative moment you’ll always remember?

Touring South America with Herbie Hancock

9.  We’re stoked to have you on stage at Black Cat!  What are you envisioning for your time with us?

Good Music and Pure Synergy.

10.  The Pandemic has affected all of us.  How has it affected both you personally and your music?

It has affected me in a lot of different ways and I empathize for the loss of so many lives. To say the least I never have taking life for granted. I do feel more in tune with my surroundings and want to continue to have compassion and empathy for the things that surround my life. good or bad.

During his 15-year career, Ambrose Akinmusire has paradoxically situated himself in both the center and the periphery of jazz, most recently emerging in classical and hip hop circles. He’s on a perpetual quest for new paradigms, masterfully weaving inspiration from other genres, arts, and life in general into compositions that are as poetic and graceful as they are bold and unflinching. His unorthodox approach to sound and composition make him a regular on critics polls and have earned him earned him grants and commissions from the Doris Duke Foundation, the MAP Fund, the Kennedy Center

The Berlin Jazz Festival and the Monterey Jazz. While Akinmusire continues to garner accolades, his reach is always beyond—himself, his instrument, genre, form, preconceived notions, and anything else imposing limitations.

Motivated primarily by the spiritual and practical value of art, Akinmusire wants to remove the wall of erudition surrounding his music. He aspires to create richly textured emotional landscapes that tell the stories of the community, record the time, and change the standard. While committed to continuing the lineage of black invention and innovation, he manages to honor tradition without being stifled by it.

Akinmusire’s Blue Note debut When The Heart Emerges Glistening was released in 2011 to rave reviews. The Los Angeles Times praised his “chameleonic tone that can sigh, flutter or soar,” adding that “Akinmusire sounds less like a rising star than one that was already at great heights and just waiting to be discovered.” DownBeat described his playing as “spectacular and not at all shy — muscular, driving, with a forward sound, pliant phrasing and a penchant for intervallic leaps,” concluding that “clearly something very special and personal is at work here, a vision of jazz that’s bigger than camps, broader and more intellectually restless than blowing sessions.”


Thursday, January 6, 2022
$25 – $35