Keyon Harrold is one of America’s biggest new jazz stars, and played all of the trumpet parts in the critically acclaimed Miles Davis biopic ‘Miles Ahead’ staring Hollywood actor Don Cheadle.
July 2018 sees multi-award winning trumpeter Keyon Harrold travel to the UK to play live shows at Soho’s Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club from 2nd – 4th July and Walcot House in Bath on 5th July, in support of his recent album The Mugician. The album’s title is a nod to the nickname that the critically acclaimed actor Don Cheadle bestowed upon the young virtuoso for his performances in the much-celebrated Miles Davis biopic ‘Miles Ahead’.
Harrold’s music draws on elements of jazz, classical, rock, blues, and hip hop to create something uniquely modern and unmistakably American. Guests on The Mugician include Pharoahe Monch, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Gary Clark Jr., and Robert Glasper to name a few.
Born and raised in Ferguson Missouri, (the St. Louis suburb that gained international attention in 2014 with the police shooting of Michael Brown and the bitter protests and riots that followed), Harrold grew up one of 16 children in a family that prioritised music and community across generations. At 18, he left Ferguson to enrol in NYC’s liberal arts college The New School. In New York, he landed his first major gig with multi-platinum recording artist, actor and film producer Common, an experience which he says broadened his musical horizons beyond jazz to include funk, Afrobeat, R&B, and hip hop. Soon after this he became the go-to trumpet player for a whole host of stars including Snoop Dogg, Jay Z, Beyonce, Rihanna and Eminem.
The Mugician is an album that celebrates the importance of family (ten of Keyon’s siblings appear on the record) and the absolute necessity of optimism in the face of darkness and doubt. The album opens with ‘Voicemail,’ which features an inspirational message from Harrold’s mother, set to a stirring, orchestral soundscape. Later he focuses on the next generation, paying tribute to his own son with ‘Lullaby’ and ‘Bubba Rides Again’.
Some of the album’s most powerful moments come with the one-two punch of ‘MB Lament’ and ‘When Will It Stop’, songs written in the wake of Michael Brown’s death and the senseless killings of so many others like him. While Ferguson looms large on The Mugician, it examines our troubled times through a far wider lens than any one tragedy. Issues of identity and equality percolate throughout the record, sometimes subtly beneath the surface, sometimes more pointedly, as in the track ‘Circus Show’, where Harrold and vocalist Gary Clark Jr trade versus and hooks, castigating the desire of America’s current ruling forces to build a ‘crazy wall’ against the refrain, ‘what’s going on?’
A vibrant range of some of America’s best musicans add to the record’s eclectic nature, but ultimately The Mugician triumphs as a unified, cohesive whole, because of Harrold’s virtuosic skill as a trumpeter and songwriter and because of his relentlessly optimistic belief in brighter days to come.
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