Marlon Saunders sees things clearly on “Dark Day”

promotional video provided by Ense

The belief or even assertion by many artists that their job is to speak to the times in which they live is being vehemently backed up and on display these days. Needless to say, there is much to say, challenge and chronicle in the face of the grand adversity 2020 has unearthed or unmasked, as is the case with the habitual racial injustice and heinous killings experienced by people of color in America. What artists have produced has taken on many forms – rage, sorrow, frustration, confusion and more. When accomplished vocalist and songwriter Marlon Saunders was last interviewed here in 2016, his track, “The People Are Ready To Dance Again,” in true artist form, was a much needed lift of spirits and hope in response to the abundance of “hate, anger and fear” that he then maintained lives amongst us.  It was also an astute suggestion to get your good times in especially since the track dropped Nov. 10th 2016, the day after the presidential election. Let that marinate for a moment.

Saunders has returned again, reflecting times that unfortunately haven’t changed much for the better or for many at all, with the haunting track, “Dark Day.” Far from the jubilant groove of “The People Are Ready To Dance Again,” “Dark Day” is a true, soul-stirring, and stark rendering of what’s happening to black lives at the hands of racial hatred and discrimination, helmed by Saunders with an assembly of voices capable of evoking church-like fervor.

So grave a place our society is in by Saunders account that he poignantly submits in the track, “Wonder if Jesus sang the blues.” As he explains in the release for the track, “The idea of Jesus singing the blues, for me is a very powerful image. It allows the mind to imagine Jesus having a dark hue that is not European. The senseless killings of black bodies, hoping conversations could be shared with the idea of honoring life…all black lives.”

In the wake of recent tragedies – those that serve as reminders of the change that is overdue – the protests, outcry and conversations suggests awareness is heightened and change will begin. We’ll see. However, It’s good to know those like Marlon Saunders are on the job continuing to shine light on the need. B.C.

Listen to the track “Dark Day” here

Learn more about Marlon Saunders at http://www.marlonsaunders.com/

Michael Leonhart and JSWISS prompt a “BLACKOUT” and provide the “light” on their new single

Accomplished rapper and hip hop artist, JSWISS joins Grammy – winning trumpeter, producer, arranger and composer, Michael Leonhart to deliver “BLACKOUT,” the stellar first single from their upcoming duo project dropping later this year.  On the track, JSWISS continues to establish his place amongst the game’s elite lyricists as he delivers an inspiring message and rallying cry amidst the current call for justice, change and “Black Lives Matter” as Leonhart provides a perfectly infectious, and lush musical canvas.  

Regarding the lyrical approach to “BLACKOUT” JSWISS explains,  “As a young Black man obviously the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and the spotlight on police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement are heavIly on my mind. But I wanted to go beyond the grief and anger that takes a toll on us, and beyond saying our lives simply “matter”, and recognize that not only should we not be killed, but we should be celebrated, and celebrate ourselves.”  And what he asserts, which is the very essence of the track,  “Black people are valuable to this world and this country, and have been so despite efforts to hold us down.” From the musical side, Leonhart states, “We wanted to create a driving, orchestral hip hop track that would support the empowering and uplifting history lesson contained in JSWISS’s lyrics”

In 2019 JSWISS, who has worked with elite musicians such as Nicholas Payton, Ben Williams, Marcus Strickland, E.J. Strickland and Maurice “MoBetta” Brown, was brought on by Michael Leonhart as now, a recurrent guest with his acclaimed, 15 – piece jazz orchestra for its monthly residency at the Jazz Standard in NYC. Leonhart who’s eclectic resumé boast work with the likes of Steely Dan, Q-Tip, Wu-Tang Clan, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings and on the Bruno Mars/Mark Ronson hit, “Uptown Funk,”  needed a quality rapper to perform on his arrangements of the legendary hip hop tracks, “Electric Relaxation” and “Untouchables.” JSWISS not only fit the bill and more, but the two instantly discovered a musical kinship and formed an immediate bond.  The two songs were so very well received especially by way of performances that appeared on NPR and renowned jazz station WBGO, that jazz label, Sunnyside Records formally released the live recordings of them earlier this year.  All of this ultimately signaled a duo project was on the horizon and “BLACKOUT” marks the debut.

“BLACKOUT” is indeed a well- accomplished, fitting anthem and necessary perspective to proclaim the calls for justice and real equality by the African – American community are not a plea, but a demand long earned. BC

Check out the short video promo for “BLACKOUT” that features legendary figures, established artists and impressive young newcomers.

Tomás Doncker is a mirror to the times we live

“An artist’s main job is to reflect his or her time. That’s the job. With any luck we can actually, per chance, illuminate, shine a light, strike a match, curse the darkness. Thats if we’re lucky . . .”

Those words came from Tomás Doncker just over three years ago during our interview with him upon the release of his riveting release, The Mess We Made. (Click here to view the interview) That project, quite without intention, was born from what was for him the literal life-numbing response to hearing about the atrocious killing of nine African-Americans inside a church located in Charleston, SC, murdered by white supremacist Dylan Roof.  

Doncker, a super busy, accomplished singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer and impresario of the successful label, True Groove Records, shut himself down to everything except his guitar and a means to capture his thoughts in response to that heinous act.  In doing so what emerged was the essence of what we asserted then was, “an incredibly impressive, provocative, no holds barred, scolding of our country and of our society, but not without a few suggestions of things we can do to get right.” 

Continue reading “Tomás Doncker is a mirror to the times we live”