Dezron Douglas & Brandee Younger
International Anthem Recording Co.
Here’s something really beautiful that has come directly from Covid-19. There have been many lockdown performances and attempts at sharing and connecting from artists – and now we’re starting to receive the ‘traditional’ recordings from those ad-hoc shows. Live to Instagram or Facebook, Zooming to the world or to a small, subscription audience – and then we’ve already had many finished products that grab the best of those loose, sprawling ‘shows’. Well, this album by partners in music and life Dezron Douglas & Brandee Younger is not their first record together (they’ve both been bandleaders and made at least a half-dozen recordings together) but it is their first from the forced conditions; the title taken from the escape clause a promoter writes into contracts where they can get out of paying an act or cancelling at last minute due to ‘act of god’ circumstances and scenarios.
Douglas is on upright bass, Younger plays the harp, together they’ve made some beautiful music – separately she is better known for working with pop and hip-hop acts (you’ve most likely seen or heard her with Common, Beyonce, The Roots) and he was tutored by jazz legends Jackie McLean and Pharoah Sanders ahead of working regularly as a member of the Ravi Coltrane Quartet and playing sideman-hustle with the likes of Louis Hayes, Makaya McCraven, Cyrus Chestnut and Steve Davis – as well as his own work as a leader. They both have chops galore. But here they are rediscovering music – the music that moves them – through the intimacy of unrehearsed performances to a single microphone in their apartment.
The best of what was beamed out to whoever wanted to hear it is collected on this 15-track, 50-minute album of mostly covers. Such beautiful and wise selections too – from the pop world (Kate Bush’s This Woman’s Work) and deep, deep jazz (John Coltrane’s Wise One, Alice Coltrane’s Gospel Trane).
Younger’s obvious antecedents lie in the works of Alice Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby, Douglas has the depth of Mingus in his stirring sound, soulful but never in the way of the song. Both are working hard here to fill in the colours that would normally be offered by drums and horns and pianos – Brandee’s harp playing filling the role at times of guitar or piano, Dezron’s bass strumming and percussive slaps offering rhythmic and melodic moments outside of the role of a pure bass player.
There’s charming moments of off-the-cuff banter and a few near missteps – one of them calling out chord changes as they go for the other to receive and work to on the fly.
This is beautiful music beautifully played, but more than that it’s about the connection these two feel to the tunes and the connection they’re making between musicians and audience, all of us unsure about our health – mental and physical – and our financial situation. The uncertainty fueling the very definite decisions made in these musical selections. From the hugeness of Sanders’ The Creator Has A Master Plan to the almost cheesy Sesame Street perennial, Sing. Here it is fucking gorgeous. That and The Jackson 5’s Never Can Say Goodbye (here perhaps similar in mood to Isaac Hayes’ take, albeit instrumental) damn near make me tear up every time.
This is so spiritually warming, humble, dynamic, nurturing. Fulfilling. Just beautiful. Time will see this as one of the true statements of the pandemic – the little guys (in the scheme of things) soldiering on. Seeking connection. Making the most from whatever they can. Making beautiful music together whatever the circumstances.
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