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Ambrose Akinmusire A Rift in Decorum: Live At The Village Vanguard

A Rift in Decorum: Live At The Village Vanguard
Ambrose Akinmusire
Blue Note Records

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Trumpeter and composer Ambrose Akinmusire has proven himself an artist of rare ability and wide-ranging aesthetic interests on his previous Blue Note albums When the Heart Emerges Glistening (2011) and the imagined savior is far easier to paint (2014). Now with the June 9 release of his expansive new double-album A Rift in Decorum: Live at the Village Vanguard, Akinmusire reaches a new pinnacle as he and his quartet of longtime bandmates – Sam Harris(piano), Harish Raghavan (bass), and Justin Brown (drums) – join a distinguished strata of jazz artists who’ve made live recordings in the hallowed New York City venue.

The pre-order for A Rift in Decorum launched today along with the album’s lead track “Maurice & Michael (sorry I didn't say hello),” which is available now to download or stream. Akinmusire has also announced an extensive touring schedule for 2017 that includes concerts in Washington DC (Library of Congress, May 20), San Francisco (SFJAZZ, June 14-15), Los Angeles (Moss Theater, June 16), Montreal International Jazz Festival (June 29), a European tour throughout the month of July, and a return to the Village Vanguard this Fall (September 19-24). See below for a full list of tour dates.

“Justin and I have talked a lot about the spirits that we can feel in the Vanguard,” Akinmusire marvels. “It’s like I’m being bear-hugged by the spirits in there. Especially in a time like now, it’s great to have a place that still exists in the way that it originally existed.”

About the album title, Akinmusire muses: “A ‘rift’ to me relates to investigating a single moment. I think rifts are what make things beautiful. ‘Decorum’ ties into my feelings about what’s going on these days, musically and in the world. But there’s also something about the red curtains at the Vanguard: somehow in connection with that visual image A Rift in Decorum makes sense to me. Musically, I would add, the title is about celebrating the negatives and the positives, the ugly parts as well as the beautiful parts.”

The album was written and produced by Akinmusire, and finds the quartet exploring 14 of his new original compositions. “I’ve been really into exploring extremes,” he explains. “I take things that are really in your face and things that are so not in your face, and then it’s about rubbing those things together and hinting about a middle, or even questioning what a middle is. That’s what this quartet is about in my mind. So you’ll have a tune where we’re playing a lot of material, and then you’ll have something that’s much more spare, almost Morton Feldmanesque, or like a Chopin Nocturne. I think more and more I’m like this as a person — extremes, polar opposites, the far reaches of both.”

There’s a poignant story behind the opening track, “Maurice and Michael (sorry I didn’t say hello)”: “I wrote it when I was artist-in-residence at the Monterey Jazz Festival. The place where you stay to compose is so beautiful. You’re by yourself overlooking the ocean, and if you look over to the right when it’s clear you can see San Francisco and Oakland. One day it hit me — wow, I have friends that are still over there in the hood who would never even know anything like this exists, so close by. Not long after that, I was on the BART home and I saw someone I grew up with named Maurice, who had a brother named Michael. I hadn’t seen them since high school. Maurice seemed to be on something, his eyes were red, he could barely walk, and I just couldn’t say hello. Here I am in some fancy suit with my expensive headphones and Moscot glasses, and this guy I grew up with looks like he’s homeless. It really affected me. I went through so many thoughts: ‘Do I think that I’m better?’ ‘Who am I to feel ashamed at whatever success I think I have?’”

One could reasonably ask if the band felt pressure that week at the Vanguard, following in the footsteps of such giants. “I don’t feel pressure when I’m playing with my band,” Akinmusire responds. “Maybe it has something to do with me not living in New York, feeling more like a normal person, just a regular guy who plays trumpet. And also the older I get, the more of a spiritual thing it becomes for me. I really believe more than ever that I’m not the one playing, so the pressure is kinda off me. My job is to do all the work necessary to allow the spirit to come through me.”

The track listing for A Rift in Decorum: Live at the Village Vanguard is as follows:

Maurice & Michael (sorry I didn't say hello)
Moment in between the rest (to curve an ache)
Brooklyn (ODB)
A song to exale to (diver song)
Purple (Intermezzo)
Trumpet Sketch (milky pete)

Taymoor's World
First Page (Shabnam’s poem)
H.A.M.S. (in the spirit of honesty)
Piano Sketch (Sam Intro)
Piano Sketch (beyond enclosure)
Condor (Harish Intro)


June 14 – SFJAZZ – San Francisco, CA
June 15 – SFJAZZ – San Francisco, CA
June 16 – Moss Theater – Los Angeles, CA
June 17 – Mission Theater – Portland, OR
June 18 – Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society – Half Moon Bay, CA
June 19 – Kuumbwa – Santa Cruz, CA
June 20 – Earshot Presents @ Poncho Concert Hall – Seattle, WA
June 21 – Athenaeum – San Diego, CA
June 22 – Dazzle – Denver, CO
June 29 – Montreal International Jazz Festival – Montreal, QC
July 1 – Ljubljana Jazz Festival – Ljubljana, Slovenia
July 2 – Cortile Osservatorio Civico Di Soresina – Sorellina, Italy
July 3 – Montreux Jazz Festival – Montreux, Switzerland
July 5 – Ronnie Scott’s – London, UK
July 6 – Ronnie Scott’s – London, UK
July 8 – Wigan Jazz Festival – Wigan, UK
July 9 – North Sea Jazz Festival – Rotterdam, The Netherlands
July 13 – Pori Jazz Festival – Pori, Finland
July 22 – Palatia Jazz – Bad Durkheim, Germany
July 24 – Wine & Jazz Festival – Bordeaux, France
July 25 – Langnau Jazz Nights – Langnau, Switzerland
July 27 – New Mexico Jazz Festival – Albuquerque, NM
July 29 – Stanford Jazz Festival – Stanford, CA
August 16 – EMPAC Rensselaer – Troy, NY
September 19-24 – Village Vanguard – New York, NY

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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 grants and commissions from the Doris Duke Foundation, the MAP Fund, the Kennedy Center, and the Monterey Jazz Festival, amongst others. 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 is a rigorous practitioner with an uncompromising dedication to creation. “I’ve learned to accept the consequences of believing in invention and creativity. You’re gonna be misunderstood. But my horse blinders have gotten a lot longer and lot thicker over the years.”

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