The bio on New York drummer Jaimeo Brown’s website describes Transcendence, his debut album as “a tapestry of African-American spirituals, along with East Indian concepts, electronic textures, acoustic jazz and blues.” “I focused on the Black spiritual as the root of the material because of its raw unfeigned expression,” he adds. “Hope is in abundance in these spirituals.” The publicity for the new album hammers home its eclecticism, describing Brown as “a brilliant 34-year-old drummer, composer and conceptualist” and adding hip hop and modern jazz to Brown’s list to make what they call an “intriguing amalgam.” Tapestry, amalgam, mosaic, montage, medley—one metaphor is as good as another to give a sense of what Brown is doing on this album, but only a sense. The only way to get real understanding of the soundscape he is creating is to listen to the album.
And whatever you decide to call it, the one thing that is clear from the very first time you hear it is that this is an innovative album unlike any other. In the tradition of some of the true jazz giants Jaimeo Brown has developed a voice all his own. Like them, he has taken the breeze from the trees and the wail from the jail, and where they came up with the blues, he’s come up with something just as exciting, but something yet to be named.
Brown is joined by JD Allen on tenor sax and Grammy-nominated guitarist Chris Sholer as well as a wealth of guest talent including pianist Geri Allen, harmonium player Andrew Shantz, East Indian vocalist Falu, and keyboardist Kelvin Sholar. Add to that some home grown family talent. There’s his parents’ bassist Dartanyan Brown and pianist/flautist Marcia Miget, his sister vocalist Marsha Rodriguez, and his two-year-old daughter who makes her vocal debut on a song called “I Said.” He also uses vocal samplings from the Gee’s Bend Quilters spiritual singers from rural Alabama, a group he came across while doing master’s thesis research on “How the Black Church Affected Jazz.”
There are a dozen songs on the album’s playlist, but the names would mean little. Suffice it to say that you can hear the influence of the spiritual and the blues translated into a contemporary jazz sound. The album itself is scheduled for release in early April, but right now on his website, you can get at least a taste of what Brown is doing with audio samples of “Mean World” which opens the album, “I Know I’ve Been Changed,” and the album’s final piece, “This World Ain’t My Home.” This last one is also available in an extended video. If you like music that pushes the envelope intellectually with emotional intensity, you ought to check it out.