Rising star Kazemde George returns to Bay Area for 9 shows
Between the emphatic title of his debut album, “I Insist”, and the supple and velvety tone of his tenor saxophone, Kazemde George has established himself as one of the most thoughtful and confident young conductors in the world. them.
Raised in Berkeley, educated in Boston and now part of the thriving Brooklyn scene, George returns to the Bay Area for an eight-show, three-night show from November 26-28 as part of the JAZZ @ theEDGE festival in Black Cat, the Tenderloin jazz club which has become the region’s essential showcase for new New York players.
As on the new album, released last month on trumpeter Dave Douglas’ Greenleaf Music label, he is joined by vocalist Sami Stevens and bassist Tyrone Allen II. Pianist Chris McCarthy and drummer Kayvon Gordon complete the quintet, which focuses on George’s original compositions and songs written with Stevens.
While she was instrumental in the lyrics to “Skylight” and the late night rebuke “Happy Birthday”, Stevens’ wordless vocals feature prominently on several other tracks. As George’s partner in life and in music, “she heard me write every piece that I composed,” he said.
“If I’m writing something and would like to add another melody line, it makes sense for Sami to come and do it. She’s such a versatile musician, she can do whatever I want her to sing.
“Everything remains really open to scrutiny,” Stevens added, joining the phone interview on the speaker. “With any song, there are a lot of options. You couldn’t have me on top, or have me as a horn.
They met at the New England Conservatory while she was in a joint degree program with Tufts (where she majored in psychology) and he was in a joint program with Harvard where he earned a bachelor’s degree in neurobiology (and a master’s degree in jazz composition from the NEC).
George studied with a series of jazz heavyweights, including tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi, pianist Danilo Perez and violaist Miguel Zenón. It was Zenón who recommended George to Dave Douglas, calling his former member of the SFJAZZ collective to recommend that he consult him.
Once the saxophonist was on his radar, Douglas said, “I started seeing his name all over this community of really creative players in Brooklyn who basically bring music from all over the world, pop and rock and and so on.”
George had already recorded “I Insist” and was looking for a label. Douglas initially launched Greenleaf Music as an outlet for his own projects, but since 2005 the music company has released over 80 albums from well-established masters like Santa Cruz-raised saxophonist Donny McCaslin and flautist Nicole Mitchell and artists in become such as the Japanese shamisen. player Emi Makabe and bassist Matt Ulery.
Impressed by George’s compositional vision and his continued quest to build his own musical identity, Douglas decided to release the album, which is dedicated to the saxophonist’s mother. “There is the sweetness of voice in the music, ‘I Insist’ in this sweet way,” said Douglas. “Its sound is very beautiful and clear. He is an artist who will only deepen.
Although he graduated in neurobiology, George never saw science as a career path. As a child of immigrants – her mother is from Jamaica and her father is from British Guiana – “I studied it because my parents are from the Caribbean and they wanted me to have a good education. This is why we were here.
But he is quick to point out that his parents supported his creative ambitions to the end. His father loves music and George grew up listening to Keith Jarrett, John Coltrane and Weather Report, “Brazilian music, calypso and reggae, so many good things,” he said.
The search for educational opportunities brought him out of Berkeley. Appalled by the poor test scores of black students at Berkeley High, his mother enrolled him in Oakland’s brand new MidWest High School (after skipping grade 8). It was deeply empowering, “but ironically, I really got into playing jazz and went to a school that didn’t have a music program.”
Instead, he found mentors at the Oaktown Jazz Workshop, studying with trumpeter Khalil Shaheed, the founder of the free after-school program, as well as saxophonist Charles McNeal and pianist Susan Muscarella. At the same time, he started making electronic music under the name KG, B, inspired by innovative hip-hop beatmakers J Dilla, Madlib and Flying Lotus.
Many of these influences are evident on “I Insist”, but George still incorporates an array of rhythms and concepts, especially Afro-Cuban traditions that he studied for a year in Havana with the support of a George scholarship. Peabody Gardener of Harvard.
“I was taking classes, playing jazz and soaking up as much as possible,” said George. “My Spanish has gotten really good. It changed me a lot.
Creative with insistence, George is a work in progress which has already established itself as an essential new voice on the stage of the 21st century.
Contact Andrew Gilbert at [email protected]
With Sami Stevens
When: 7:30 p.m., 9 p.m. and 10:45 p.m. November 26-28
Or: Black Cat, 400 Eddy St., San Francisco
Tickets: $ 35 to $ 45; www.blackcatsf.com