Rising Stars, Heavy Grooves Prevail at Revive Music’s 10-Year Anniversary


Keyon Harrold (clockwise, from top left), BIGYUKI and Just in Brown were among the artists who celebrated Revive Music’s 10-year anniversary in New York on April 19.

(Photo: Revive Music/Facebook)

Revive Music brought artists from its popular roster to Le Poisson Rouge in Manhattan on April 19, debuting its “Blue After Dark” residency to honor the label’s 10-year anniversary. Broadcast live on the web-streaming site Boiler Room TV, “Blue After Dark” was billed as a celebration of “the art of improvisation with a multi-genre aesthetic rooted in jazz.” For the admission of $20, the jammed-in audience of largely 20-somethings got their money’s worth.

The New York City-based record label is in a unique position. Along with Brainfeeder, the label started by Los Angeles-based producer Flying Lotus, Revive Music presents artists whose vision draws on jazz archetypes informed by hip-hop and electronic dance music. Who knows? In 30 years’ time we may refer to Revive Music in the kind of hallowed language currently reserved for Blue Note and Prestige.

First up, Justin Brown’s NYEUSI project crammed onto the Le Poisson Rouge stage, performing selections from the drummer’s growing body of material, some of which will soon be documented on his debut album. The 32-year-old’s previous work with vibraphonist Chris Dingman, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, Flying Lotus, pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Thundercat and saxophonist Dayna Stephens has helped establish his singular sound, but NYEUSI was something altogether different.

Recalling such organic fusion albums as George Duke’s The Aura Will Prevail and Feel, Brown’s compositions were psychedelic, funky, flowing and groove-driven, yet delivered with the searing, nimble touch that is one of the drummer’s trademarks.

Performed by keyboardist James Francies, bassist Evan Marien, multi-instrumentalist Mark Shim and percussionist Bendji Allonce, Brown’s music revered the past while blasting into the future. Synth and EWI melodies coiled together, winding over Brown’s deft trap-set fusillades. Delayed, electronically enhanced drum patterns steamed under soprano saxophone sci-fi messages.

The band surged through Brown’s music like an outer space-bound ship, even covering Tony Williams’ “Circa 45” (from the 1971 release Ego), bending its eerie, dissonant melody into a sideways soul-fired stew. NYEUSI’s memorable melodies, adventurous arrangements, radiant improvisations and cohesive delivery provided the evening’s biggest thrill.

Keyon Harrold, who provided the sound of Miles Davis’ trumpet in Don Cheadle’s biopic Miles Ahead, showered the club with scalding trumpet missives and hip-hop-laden grooves. Recalling none other than Freddie Hubbard with his gritty tone and agitated yet streamlined solos, Harrold’s compositions were sporadically stalled by static arrangements, though drummer Kendrick Scott’s high-flying rhythms were certainly not to blame.

Accompanied by guitarist Nir Felder, saxophonist Marcus Strickland and bassist Mark Kelly, Harrold rambled from Gambian Highlife beats to languorous funk. The band’s loose jam aesthetic occasionally produced blistering solos, particularly from Strickland and Felder, as well as Harrold. But the grooves grew repetitive and the arrangements lackluster.

Though cited by Wynton Marsalis as the “future of the trumpet,” and a veteran of tours with Beyoncé, Common and Rihanna, Harrold came off as a brilliant soloist in search of compositions.

Keyboardist Yuki Hirano, aka BIGYUKI, hit the stage with a lead foot and flying fingers, supported by the trio of drummer Charles Haynes and guitarist Randy Runyon (The Karma Exchange, Bilal, Jennah Bell).

Hunching over his keyboard rig, wearing layers of clothing that recalled a costume from the Star Wars movies, BIGYUKI mixed fat beats, wild solos and kitschy effects with the furnace-fired improvisations of his hot-blooded trio. Jones was a powerhouse presence, his grooves shooting off climactic sparks reminiscent of early Billy Cobham and John Blackwell, while Runyon spewed sophisticated funk.

Through it all, BIGYUKI pulled dissonant tremors, numbing tones and stomach-churning drills from his keyboard arsenal. The beast-like sprawl continued in BIGYUKI’s nightmarish synth world of sirens, groans and horror-tones offered as anti-melodic mind pollution. After returning from a bathroom break, BIGYUKI’s subsonic slush gave way to a guest appearance by singer Bilal.

Further “Blue After Dark” dates may bring performances by vocalist Taylor McFerrin, bassist Ben Williams and Tawiah. The future looks bright, the revival almost insight.

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