Having toured and recorded with or produced for some of the world’s best artists and ensembles like Jay-Z, Beyonce, Common, Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill, Keyon Harrold recently released his excellent debut album The Mugician, which features guest spots from the likes of Robert Glasper, Bilal, Big K.R.I.T., Gary Clark, Jr., Pharoahe Monch and more. We caught up with Keyon ahead of his gig here tomorrow 13 April….
What is one of your earliest musical memories that sticks with you?
One of my earliest music memories was watching a young Roy Hargrove playing the trumpet on Jazz Central Station. I had just started learning to play the trumpet. And seeing someone, not much older than me, was captivating. I didn’t know his name at the time, but when I look back in retrospect it was most certainly Roy. That video made me feel that it was cool to play jazz. A music dominated by older musicians, due to its wine-like better-with-age quality. That performance defied that and made me feel included. That is what I aim to do with my artistry—to include others. Gender, genre, culture, age or whatever. Music should propel.
I read somewhere that you are one of 16 children! How many of your siblings are musical and what was it like growing up in such a large family?
All of my siblings learned music. It was part of the Harrold household. Much of the music was passed down (just like the clothes!). My parents were pastors in church and my grandfather ran a drum and bugle corps. So music was always around. My sisters are singers. My brothers are great musicians. One is regularly seen with Gregory Porter as his drummer. His name is Emanuel Harrold. So my siblings have and still do inspire me.
A big part of your gig is performing your latest album, The Mugician. What can the audience expect for those who haven’t heard it yet?
I really can’t wait to play the music from The Mugician for new audiences on this tour. Everyone can expect raw honesty from my music. I have an amazing band of musicians who bring my ideas to life. People will hear passion and feel my own vulnerable heart through this music. They will hear compositions, arrangements, and improvisations that speak to one’s soul. I aim to bring the audience into the world that is in my head.
How does performing an album of this type live, differ to recording?
It differs when the entire list of incredible artists from the record are not present. So sometimes the arrangements need to be reimagined. That is not to say that they are less poignant.
Do you mix the order of the tracks to create different journeys through the music?
I absolutely like to have a script of the songs, but I do leave space for magic to happen. I yield to the vibe of the band, and to the audience. Then I simply want the expressions to flow organically.
I particularly fell in love with the Wayfairing Traveller, from the album and loved how jazz and hip-hop sounds converged so seamlessly. Who are some of the artists you’ve listened to from both genres that have inspired your own creative processes?
Thank you very much. People who inspire me are many!!! Here are a few:
Georgia Anne Muldrow
Ali Shahi Muhammad
You provided the trumpet playing in the Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead (2015) – what an endorsement of your trumpet playing! How was it trying to personally recreate the sound of such an iconic artist?
Thank you. It was a surreal experience. It was ultimately reciting what I had learned from all of the hours of studying Miles. I know his sound. I have a good idea of how he stylistically gets through songs harmonically, so that helped me throughout the process of composing and playing in his voice.
In the UK we have a long-running BBC radio programme called Desert Island Discs, in which you need to select 8 recordings, a book and a luxury item to take with you to a desert island. Perhaps 8 is a bit much here, but what are some of the items you might take?
A book, Four Agreements: A personal Guide to personal Freedom. By Don Miguel Ruiz and a great coffee machine!
Catch Keyon Harrold tomorrow 13 April tickets available here