Keyon Harrold, On a Small Mission for Peace

Written by | Concerts, News

Keyon Harrold came to the wider attention of the jazz scene by his appearance in the Miles Davis biopic “Miles Ahead” (2015) directed by and starring Don Cheadle. Harrold plays the trumpet on the Grammy award-winning soundtrack, while his playing is mimed by Cheadle in the live concert parts.

The film focuses on the darkest chapter in Miles’ life, the mid-to-late 1970s, while Miles was paranoid and strung out on cocaine, alone for the most part while confined to his luxurious apartment in New York City. Whenever he is out of the apartment, mainly he’s looking to score or he’s dodging bullets.

Keyon had already debuted as a leader with “Introducing Keyon Harrold” in 2009 (Criss Cross), but his next recording as a leader, “The Mugician” (2017) on Legacy, did not come out until after this film.
His debut is straight-up bebop or post-bop, and this one alone could have been sufficient to consider him for playing Miles’ songs for “Miles Ahead.” “The Mugician” shifts to collaborations with rappers and R&B vocalists for a more contemporary funkier jazz, and with a much darker tone over all.

Meanwhile, Keyon Harrold’s newest album “Foreverland” (2024) is more influenced by Stevie Wonder (“Songs in the Key of Life” era), Eryka Badu, contemporary R&B, and rap, with an underlining of more easy-listening jazz. There is still collaboration with high-profile rappers such as Common, but he is toned down paired with vocalist Jean Baylor on “Peace of Mind,” one of the highlights on the album.

With this track, or on “Peace Beyond” and the standout instrumental “Well Walk Now (Perseverance)” Keyon may be grappling with a personal drama or a traumatic event in his own life, which occurred a few years ago, and it had brought a different kind of national attention to him, beyond the jazz world.

On the day after Christmas in 2020, Harrold’s 14-year-old son was falsely accused of stealing a woman’s cell phone at the Arlo SoHo Hotel in New York City. A so-called “Karen,” the 22-year-old Miya Ponsetto, who had accused his son, later got her “stolen” iPhone from a taxi driver, since she had left it in his car. Harrold won a harassment complaint against Ponsetto, for assaulting his son during the whole travesty, which was recorded and went viral, showing the outrageous behavior of this woman.

This unfortunate event could be compared to a similar episode taken from the life of Miles Davis, when on August 25, 1959, he was beaten by NYC police (then arrested) merely for standing on the sidewalk outside of Birdland, where he was not only performing, but headlining with his band. The band was taking a break, and Miles had stepped out of the club with a young white woman to have a smoke together. When Miles was ordered by police to “move on” away from the front of the club, Miles took umbrage, naturally. So a white policeman responded by belting Miles across the head with a baton.

That incident, which happened during one of Miles’ peaks in his musical career was also later seen as one of the reasons for his later career’s collapse (at the hands of drug abuse and overall bitterness or anger). In the case of Keyon Harrold, since the public humiliation of his son could be comparable to Miles’ incident, Harrold shows no sign of reverting to self-destructive behavior; instead he seeks peace.

For his upcoming tour in Europe, trumpeter Keyon Harrold will be joined by Nir Felder on guitar, Cedrick Mitchell on piano, Burniss Earl Travis II on bass, and Charles Haynes on drums.

March 6, Wednesday—New Morning, Paris, France
March 13,Wednesday– Cabaret des Péchés, Jazz Fest Brno, Czech Republic
March 14, Thursday—Jazz Dock, Prague, Czech Republic
March 16, Saturday—Fasching, Stockholm Sweden

Tony Ozuna is Art Director and senior lecturer for the School of Journalism, Media & Visual Arts at Anglo-American University in Prague.

Featured Header Image © Carl Hyde Photography

Last modified: July 9, 2024