Every musician uses musical references to guide certain aspects of their creative process. While I am in the midst of conceptualizing, writing, producing, and recording my album, I’ve been listening to many of my favorite artists for inspiration, specifically soul music from the mid to late 1970’s. I want to share some of these songs with you, so you can reside in this soundscape with me. I titled this post Auditory Album Inspirations, because so many other things outside of music influence my work, particularly nature, certain colors, and visual art. I’ll share more in the coming weeks. For now, here’s some of what is currently curating my thought patterns.
“Almost Lost Detroit” – Gil Scott-Heron
“Voyage To Atlantis” – The Isley Brothers
“You Are My Starship” – Norman Connors feat. Michael Henderson
“Every Time He Comes Around” – Minnie Riperton
“Sign of the Judgement” – MacIntosh County Shouters
I was truly honored to be invited by the US Embassy in Colombia to perform at the VI Mompox Jazz Festival. I’d never been to South America before, so I was truly excited, however, it was such a new experience that I was a little nervous. I do not speak any Spanish and my music is not Latin influenced, so I was not sure how the crowd would receive my band and I. All my hang-ups turned out to completely unfounded. Performing at the Mompox Jazz Festival was one of the most amazing times I’ve ever experienced on a stage.
All the festival staff were warm people and great professionals. Despite it being a rainy evening, the audience was in the thousands and all obviously enjoying themselves. After hours in planes, taxis, and buses traveling, laughing, and sharing stories with each other, the band and I were in sync and vibing. When this perfect combination of feeling supported professionally and spiritually occurs, it is freeing.
That freedom is what every musician is seeking in a live performance. I tried things vocally I would usually be scared to attempt without rehearsing them. I didn’t worry about remembering lyrics, because I knew they would come. I followed wherever the energy was taking me.
The main stage was situated in a square in front of a large church of Spanish architecture, overlooking the river Magdelena. As I walked up on stage it was raining, a consistent drizzle, but I was later told that as soon as we started playing the rain stopped. For our last song, we decided to give them a little bit of DC. We started with Duke Ellington’s classic “It Don’t Mean A Thing,” opening with a drum solo by Tyler Leak. We played through the form a couple of times, swinging, with trumpet solos and scatting; then we broke it down into Chuck Brown’s “It Don’t Mean A Thing.” The Colombian audience was feeling the GoGo, and so was I. I started dancing and got the audience to sing along, “Do wah do wah do wah do wah do wah.” Joe and I traded solos. He was blazing. I was hitting some Ella-esque sounds and lines. After we left the stage we went down into the audience, took Tequila shots, and danced Merengue in the rain while Dominican artist Sergio Vargas performed. Magic.
I’m so thankful to have had this experience. Special thank you to Leyla Moreno and Pedro Moreno, Sergio Andres, and Maria LaTorre for treating us so kindly and being amazing traveling companions. Thank you to the rest of the band for being incredible people & musicians, Zachary Cutler, Eliot Seppa, Joe Herrera, and Tyler Leak!
Performing at the Mompox Jazz Festival
Doing a Jazz History workshop for students at UniColombo
I’ve realized this year, I do not need a reason to be happy.
Any little thing is enough. Any big thing is enough. The sun. A nice cleansing breath. A good nap. My loved ones. The color of my nails. Someone else’s laugh. I don’t have to feel how I’m expected to feel.
I don’t have to feel how I usually feel or how I used to feel. Happiness doesn’t have to be a smile, although it often is. It can be a quiet, knowing peace with what is right now.
“Every Time He Comes Around” by Minnie Riperton from her 1974 album Perfect Angel.
Minnie is one of my favorite artists of all time, and people often compare me to her. Although that scares the mess out of me, I decided last year to start performing one of her classic songs, Every Time He Comes Around.
I really appreciate how Minnie was sexy and passionate without ever coming off as vulgar. That’s not easy to pull off, and was one of the many things that made her so unique. I tried to embody that passion here in this acoustic version, and I hope you all enjoy it!
Thanks to Zach and his cat Otis for having me over their lovely apartment, and thanks to my boyfriend for filming!
“Midnight” by Lianne La Havas from her new album Blood.
I’m a huge fan of Lianne and this is my favorite song from her album. I went over to my good friend Zach’s lovely apartment and we played an acoustic version of it. Thanks to Zach & his cat Otis for their hospitality!
“Rise Up’ by Andra Day from her album Cheers to the Fall.
I was introduced to this song when the incredible tap dancer Chloe Arnold asked me perform it as a duet with her at the 8th Annual DC Tap Fest. I enjoyed singing it so much that I decided to do a cover for you all. Hope you enjoy it! Let me know what you think of my rendition.
Keys: Jacob Ungerleider
Videographer: Tirop Sambu
Leading up to the release of my music video, I decided to do a new Youtube & Facebook video series. Every Monday I will release a cover of a song by one of my favorite artists.
“Been to the Moon” by Corinne Bailey Rae
“Been to the Moon” by Corinne Bailey-Rae off her new album The Heart Speaks in Whispers.
I love this song and I was excited to sing it in my own way! I drove down to Richmond to play with my friend, an awesome musician, Jacob Ungerleider. Shout out to my boyfriend for filming & editing! I hope you all enjoy it!
Keys: Jacob Ungerleider
Videographer: Tirop Sambu (Entiropgalaxies on Youtube)
I decided to enter the NPR Music Tiny Desk Contest this year. It was a good excuse to introduce you all to one of my newer songs. It’s called “Your Idea of Beautiful,” and I had an amazing afternoon recording the video with my band 🙂
Let me know what you think!
Composers: Cecily & Nii Quaye Aryee
Guitar: Zach Cutler
Bass: Eliot Seppa
Keyboard: Colin Chambers
Percussion: Dante Pope
Videography: Tirop araap Kiituur Sambu
We must follow our intuition. We saw our paths before we were even born & know it better than any other person. But we must be cautious of our fears and our ego, they are not intuition. Intuition is the voice that existed before we existed, the voice of ancestors and angels, the voice of God.
You have convinced yourself that your journey is too trivial for destiny. But you cannot deny the electricity that runs down your spine when you take one half step towards what feels like Purpose. That is the only proof you need. The alignment of your intention and your purpose is destiny at work. Go for it!