Tyrone Birkett | Emancipation has had an exciting 2018 so far this year! Highlights included a performance at the famed Apollo Theater for the "Still We Shall Rise" event for Black History Month, and performing the music commission "Ashes, Star(dust), Ase' at Drew University. Coming up are dates at Storm King Arts Center in support of the Indicators: Artists on Climate Change exhibition, and commemorating the Underground Railroad at the AME Zion Church of Newburgh, the first church established by Black people in the Hudson Valley.
Tyrone Birkett is a saxophonist, composer, producer, and speaker with extensive experience partnering art and social consciousness as an "artist for humanity". Focused on creating music that affirms the good and the beautiful, in spite of what we see in our world. As the conceptualist, composer and musical director of the band Tyrone Birkett | Emancipation, he has created Postmodern Spirituals, a project that synthesizes jazz language, black church music, soul music & Negro spirituals. Fronted by his saxophone and the declarative vocals of his wife, Paula Ralph Birkett, lyric and melody are enveloped in a sonic environment of intriguing harmonies, funk and jazz rhythmic underpinnings, shaped by painstakingly constructed arrangements, topped off with virtuosic & soulful improvisation.
SELECTED PRESS QUOTES
HRAYR ATTARIAN – All About Jazz
Over a period of eight years Birkett's work has matured and he has developed a unique style. This cohesive and delightful disc is a testament of that evolution. ...Post Modern Spirituals: The Promised Land is a stimulating and sincere expression of superb musicianship and deep passion.
Mark S. Tucker – Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
When sax player Tyrone Birkett tells you he gathers his influences wherever he may find them, he isn't kidding around. Postmodern Spirituals: The Promised Land is a CD chockful of everyone he mentions and a good deal more besides: Miles, Quincy, Coltrane, Weather Report (Wayne Shorter), Mike Brecker, gospel, soul, and so on but also Lonnie Liston Smith (Birkett plays keyboards as well and arranges everything here), Sonny Stitt, Dewey Redman, stage opuses, and more besides. In fact, Postmodern sounds like it was meant to be a very hip combo of concert and theatrical presentation. The center point, though, is the proliferation of Birkett's superb soloing, flights that take you beyond borders.
Jack Goodstein – Blogcritics.com
From the opening drum roll of the first of the nouveau spirituals, “The Departure,” it is clear that the listener is in for something out of the ordinary. Birkett’s work on the sax has just enough nuanced soundscape to justify both the term postmodern and his description of the horn as sounding “a clarion call.” Paula Birkett’s vocal is revelatory. She has a voice rich and powerful, and she demonstrates her ownership of the material every time she opens her mouth.
Postmodern Spirituals: The Promised Land is a concept album with a purpose, an album with something to say. It says it with some of the most dynamic musical you are likely to hear from any jazz ensemble around.
Chris Spector – Midwest Record
For all our talk about civil rights jazz and church basement jazz, here's a cat that's taken up the call to arms with modern church basement jazz updating the concepts of freedom songs and Negro spirituals for today. A jazz vet of styles and times, sax man Birkett colors wildly outside the lines for a unique jazz set that keeps you guessing as to what's coming next… Hard hitting stuff that doesn't need Western Union to send it's message.
Brenda Nelson-Strauss – Black Grooves - Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.
Saxophonist Tyrone Birkett, a veteran performer with roots in the sanctuaries of the black church and ‘70s soul-jazz, presents his concept of the postmodern spiritual—a retelling of the Negro freedom song for contemporary audiences featuring his band Emancipation. Inspired by musicians ranging from John Coltrane and Miles Davis to Hall Johnson, Mahalia Jackson and Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, Birkett creates an innovative collage—complex in its execution yet readily accessible. The soulful vocals of Paula Ralph-Birkett unify the eight tracks as they programmatically trace African American history. Setting the stage is the epic eight-minute opening track, “The Departure,” followed by “The Struggle,” together representing a declaration of freedom and the push to overcome obstacles. Both share similar melodic themes and were drawn from Birkett’s longer composition, “The Seven Star Suite” (a third song from the suite, “Freedom Dreaming” is also included). The title track, “The Postmodern Spiritual,” is a song “to help us stand up tall when our backs are against the wall” and employs spoken poetry in the mid-section, conveying Birkett’s concept of “freedom music for the 21st century” combining “the fervor of the spiritual and freedom of improvisation.” On “Motherless Child (Revisited),” Paula stretches her significant vocal range as the spiritual morphs from a slow dirge to a funk driven celebration signaling the transformation from despair to hope. Other highlights include “Deep River,” an instrumental version inspired by the great composer/arranger Moses Hogan, and the contemplative closing song “The Promise,” which Birkett describes as God’s answer to requests for strength, a way to freedom, and justice. Though Birkett may not be a familiar name in jazz circles, this album is highly recommended for its excellent musicianship, creative compositions, and thematic material. This is soul-jazz, gospel-jazz, and contemporary jazz in a harmonious bounty of spirituality and empowerment.
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