Trumpeter Keyon Harrold's Top Five Albums
In advance of his upcoming sets at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola entitled The Iconic Miles Davis, we sat down with trumpeter Keyon Harrold—who provided the sound for Don Cheadle's trumpet solos in the recent biopic Miles Ahead—to discuss his top five albums. Enjoy!
Miles Ahead contains all of the elements of a classic. It was a virtuosic performance from Miles. Poignant vocabulary and expression. The horn is a microphone for Miles’s soul. I liken what he and Gil Evans did to early aerospace exploration. Miles’s horn was the spaceship and Gil shaped a sonic universe of arrangements for Miles to navigate. Classic.
The simple melodies of A Love Supreme are a holistic view of spirituality in my eyes; an ongoing free fall into the soul. 'Trane is the wise teacher. His agility on saxophone is like water, or better yet, like a sorcerer’s staff. The improvisations on this record leave me with the impression that many of the infinite musical possibilities have been already experienced, which is a humbling reality as a musician. Of course that’s not true. But this is indeed one of the albums that pushes me to think about music more simply; to push into deeper meanings and concepts.
Like Water for Chocolate is one of my favorite albums because of its DNA. Common is one of the best and one of my favorite MCs of all time. When you think of J-Dilla, DJ Premier, Questlove, Roy Hargrove, Tony Allen as some of the ingredients then you know that this is musical gumbo. The way that this album fused “samples” with musicianship and lyrical content makes it a classic. I’m biased with Like Water for Chocolate because [Common] was my first professional touring situation. It forced me to abandon the idea that as a trumpeter I would simply be just another "jazz musician." It forced me to consider adding dimension to my artistry, compositionally, production-wise, and message-wise. Because music should paint the time as it moves forward.
This is an album that made me dig deeper into harmony. When I first heard it I was about 16 or 17 years old. Pre-immersion of many of my current influences and post-Clifford Brown, Fats Navarro, and Freddie Hubbard. From a harmonic standpoint, as a trumpet player, the pyrotechnic leaps to chord tones and extensions helped me to explore more intervallic playing and probe the upper structures of chords. The band with the late Kenny Kirkland, Jeff “Tain” Watts, and Nat Reeves was a new standard in how to approach jazz for me.
To Pimp a Butterfly challenges the status quo of the current state of urban music. Many (but not all) of the rap albums today are filled with familiar musicality (i.e. 808s and trap beats); lyrically, they're nonsense and not much more. This album literally is the outlier. It could be looked at as a jazz album or labeled "hip-jazz" or "jazz-hop" ft. Kendrick Lamar. Seriously, some of today’s rising stars in music—Terrace Martin, Thundercat, Bilal, and Robert Glasper—implement a progressive motion in music production and composition by including improvisation, complex forms, and real instruments to make this one deeper than most. The perfect cake in my eyes, the epitome of rap today is Kendrick Lamar, the sum of the crème de la crème in musicianship. It’s a perfect storm.
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