Album of the Day: “Origami Harvest” by Ambrose Akinmusire


Artist:  Ambrose Akinmusire

Album:  Origami Harvest

Label:  Blue Note Records

Style:  Unconventional protest / Transcendent poetry

Favorite Track:  “Americana/The Garden Waits For You To Match Her Wilderness”

Music from:  New York City

What I like about it:  This album possesses an immediacy.  It hangs over every other quality, and it bleeds out of every note.  The immediacy is omnipresent, and this is never more evident than how the themes of racism, political divides, societal barriers and all those things that keep us apart stay right there in your face no matter how often the music shifts phases of influence between those of modern jazz, hip hop, chamber music, R&B, pop, and spoken word.  It’s as if Ambrose Akinmusire is stating that there will be no refuge from these problems, that they follow no matter where we go, either physically or allegorically via our choices in music.  Except, perhaps, the album itself.  Because, I like (love) how Origami Harvest is almost a refuge from all of the pain and fear and despair that hangs over us these days, even as the trumpeter’s ensemble goes about addressing it in a way that is as direct as it is poetic.

I like how wild and frenetic the music gets while never giving any other impression than everything is under control… a focused and concentrated chaos that is allowed to fully realize its preordained randomness but will always be framed in a specific point of view that calmly advises, “We got this.”  On past recordings, Akinmusire has incorporated a roll call of victims of the structural racism that poisons this society, and while it was always a powerful moment just by way of the memories their naming invokes, the current iteration of that device on “Free, White and 21” hits an entirely new plateau.  As the names of the deceased are read off, there are cries and shouts that strike through the heart of the song.  There is something terribly unnerving about them.  They’re raw and unguarded, and they border on theatrical, and surreal in that way only the most vulnerable displays of emotion can present themselves… where things are too real and we’re forced to interface with them through disbelief.  At the other end of spectrum but creating the same effect are the calm, painfully deadpan vocals on “Americana/The Garden Waits For You To Match Her Wilderness” that are disconcertingly out of place for the subjects addressed.  I like all of that.

I like that this album just smacked me right in the face even as it filled my heart with the hope and joy music is capable of delivering even during the hardest times.  I like how this album keeps finding new ways to surprise, new details that emerge, and I love how it makes me want to keep writing about it, even long after I type the words The End.

Your album personnel:  Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet, voice), Marcus Gilmore (drums), Sam Harris (piano, keyboards), Walter Smith III (tenor sax), Kool A.D. (voice), Michael Aaberg (keyboards), LmbrJck_t (voice) and Mivos Quartet of Olivia De Prato (violin), Lauren Cauley Kalal (violin), Victor Lowrie Tafoya (viola) and Mariel Roberts (cello).

Available at:  Amazon

Be sure to check out the artist’s site.

And check out this amazing video: