Village Voice 04.19.2017 : Page 34

34 April 19 April 25, 2017 Beyond Jazz, Beyond Music VILLAGE With a suite of new projects, Samora Pinderhughes blurs the lines between music, poetry, and activism L BY SIDDHARTHA MITTER ast October, when Samora Pinderhughes released The Transformations Suite , his jazz and poetry ensemble work keyed to Black Lives Matter and the issues that drive it, the pianist and composer put it up for free, making purchase optional even though years of effort had gone into the project. “I wasn’t trying to have peo-ple buy it,” he says. “It was important for this project, because of its content, that there were no barriers for anybody.” Pinderhughes, 25, doesn’t separate music and activism. He began writing the suite six years ago, while at Juilliard, ran-kled by the limits of the jazz performance program and seeking a wider canvas. “I studied with Kenny Barron, so I can’t complain,” he says. “But as far as making my own work, that was not my schooling. Pinderhughes began writing The Transformations Suite six years ago at Juilliard. The suite allowed me to realize what I be-lieve, at least at this point, is my purpose, which is to create projects that in some way address these larger questions, as well as hopefully being of artistic merit.” So far, Pinderhughes is living up to his standard. At a time when many jazz artists are making work with a renewed political edge, Transformations Suite feels particularly complete. It opens with a soft, insistent drumroll, as if calling a restive assembly to purpose, before settling into a processional beat as the full sextet joins. “We shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye,” sings vocalist Jehbreal Jackson. “Give us justice.…” In the course of six movements, the collection travels from contemplation to exaltation, anger to heal-ing. It received rave reviews and a fresh set of concert dates, one of which aired in full on NPR’s Jazz Night in America the day before the presidential inauguration. This week, the Transformations Suite receives its last New York performance for the foreseeable future, on Thursday, at Le Poisson Rouge’s monthly “We Re-sist!” event. At the same time, Pinder-hughes will showcase some of his many other projects. Headlining with him are actor-rappers Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, whom he has known since his teenage years in Berkeley, California; the three have an ongoing electronic project. The concert will also feature clips from Whose Streets? , the “people’s documen-tary” on the Ferguson uprising by Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis, which pre-miered this year at Sundance; Pinder-hughes wrote the score. “It’s going to be a giant hodgepodge celebration, but everything its together,” he says. Pinderhughes is a songwriter, too; he has written for Common, Herbie Han-cock, and Lalah Hathaway, and for his own new band, called Venus. He is de-veloping a multimedia installation on healing and trauma in communities racked by violence, guided by play-wright Anna Deavere Smith. “We’re fortunate that Samora is involved in so many endeavors,” says pianist Vijay Iyer, whom Pinderhughes calls a mentor. “He’s a brilliant and engaged hu->> p36 Courtesy Samora Pinderhughes

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