Thursday, April 15, 2021

Barra Brown - LFT:RT

Across his work in acoustic jazz with his Barra Brown Quintet and as one half of creative beat-making duo Korgy & Bass, Portland-based musician and producer Barra Brown’s thematic ambition and fearless merging of electronics with improvisational forms reaches a climax on the his debut solo LP LFT:RT.

The diversity of Brown’s musical experience is the driving force of LFT:RT. The album’s title represents Brown’s attempt to break down the binary thinking so often used to sort complex human life into simplified categories. “I say I’m left-handed, yet I’m extremely ambidextrous,” Brown says. Realizing his drumming “was not left- or right-handed, but a continuous circle that connects at points of contact,” his ideas and phrasing themselves became more fluid, more flexible. 

Featuring mostly remote-recorded contributions and co-writes from ERYST artist ePP, guitarist Jack Radsliff, Brubeck Institute Fellow Tree Palmedo, Oregon Music Hall of famer Dan Balmer, and more, this 11 track album is a rollicking exploration of instrumental music through the lenses of hip-hop, nu-jazz and ambient music (just to name a few). LFT:RT serves both as a sampling of the Portland jazz scene’s brightest young heavyweights and a perfect introduction to Brown as a solo artist of strikingly eclectic, forward-thinking style.

The opening track, “RIDE (feat. ePP)” is an explosion of huge drums and driving synth ostinatos. ePP’s voice lands somewhere between singing and rapping as he calls attention to issues of police brutality. On “CYRUS”, we hear Brown on flute doubling Nabipoor’s trumpet melody. Bleeps & bloops surround DnB style drums in the exploratory sound-scape of “Whoa Hey!” (one of 4 tracks with trumpet leads). “SAM” uses a six-string bass as the lead instrument while “GULLS” is a soaring three section piece with multi-layered guitars. The penultimate track, “WASTED TIME (feat. Alexander Mackenzie)” is a deep groove and hook based hip-hop cut. The closing track, “rhetorical,” is the most ballad-like track and is reminiscent of both Miles Davis & Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s harmon tone. 

In 2019, following an impressive catalog of releases (two quintet records & a large ensemble commission with Portland Jazz Composer’s Ensemble), Brown co-composed the album Remote -- a sonic journey from industrialization to the modern-day tech industry --  with his project Korgy & Bass in collaboration with NOLA trumpeter Cyrus Nabipoor. This remotely made album landed on KMHD Jazz Radio’s “Top Ten Albums of 2019”. In 2020, Barra & Co. released Agrocrag into the world -- a bombastic and genre-transcendent album featuring a track with Oregon Poet Laureate Anis Mojgani. This creative beat-making exploration culminated into a multisensorial performance in the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI) planetarium show.

Barra has shared the stage with Ani DiFranco, Gregory Alan Isakov, Robert Glasper, and Makaya McCraven among others. He has worked with Tucker Martine, Michael Curry, OMSI, PNCA, Alan Jones, Radiation City, Ages and Ages, Shook Twins, Morning Ritual, Old Wave, and the Portland Jazz Composer’s Ensemble & performed at notable venues like The Fillmore West and Red Rocks Amphitheater.

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