Composer and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, known for his rapid musical development and innovative contributions to the jazz landscape, is set to mark his debut on Nonesuch Records with the release of “Owl Song” on December 15, 2023. The album, a trio collaboration with guitarist Bill Frisell and drummer Herlin Riley, showcases Akinmusire’s penchant for creating a unique sonic experience.
Akinmusire’s musical journey traces back to his upbringing in Oakland, California, where his exceptional talents caught the attention of saxophonist Steve Coleman during high school. At just nineteen, he joined Coleman’s Five Elements, embarking on tours while simultaneously pursuing studies at the Manhattan School of Music. A commitment to musical excellence led him to further education, earning a master’s degree at the University of Southern California and later attending the Thelonius Monk Institute in Los Angeles, mentored by jazz luminaries Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. Currently serving as the Artistic Director of the Hancock Institute, Akinmusire’s multifaceted career reflects a deep commitment to artistic exploration and growth.
Having signed with Blue Note Records in 2010, Akinmusire received global acclaim for his debut, “When the Heart Emerges Glistening.” Subsequent projects, such as “The Imagined Savior Is Far Easier to Paint” (2014) and his involvement in Kendrick Lamar’s groundbreaking “To Pimp a Butterfly” (2015), showcased his versatility and ability to navigate diverse musical landscapes. The tapestry of “Origami Harvest” (2018) delved into the complexities of Black culture, while “On the Tender Spot of Every Calloused Moment,” released in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, explored poignant laments on societal issues.
Akinmusire’s forthcoming album, “Owl Song,” represents a reaction to the information overload in contemporary society. In his words, it’s an attempt to create a safe space within the realm of open musical landscapes, inspired by records that have resonated deeply with him. Collaborating with guitarist Bill Frisell and drummer Herlin Riley, Akinmusire acknowledges their unique contributions. Frisell’s ability to shape a piece upon hearing it for the first time, coupled with Riley’s commitment to beauty within the groove, highlights the distinctive synergy of the trio.
In discussing the album’s title track, “Owl Song 1,” Akinmusire explains his special affinity for owls, emphasizing their distinctive personality of constant observation. Regarding the album’s creative process, he notes that the titles, including “Owl Song 1” and “2,” were placeholders reflecting his focus on developing a set of music rather than conveying specific meanings. This approach aligns with his intent to create a musical experience guided by open spaces and emotional resonance.
“Owl Song” marks the initial release of a trilogy on Nonesuch Records over the next year, each spotlighting a distinct element of Akinmusire’s musical world. The albums will showcase varied instrumentation and production approaches, providing listeners with a nuanced exploration of the artist’s evolving creative landscape. With a career marked by artistic growth and a commitment to pushing boundaries, Akinmusire’s “Owl Song” and the forthcoming trilogy serve as a testament to his continued journey within the realms of contemporary jazz.
Owl Song is the first of three records Akinmusire is releasing on Nonesuch over the next year. Each will spotlight a distinct element of his musical world and involve different instrumentation and production approaches.
More information on this coming release can be found at the Nonesuch Records website.
Last modified: December 3, 2023