Brandee Younger: Brand New Life

Editor's Choice

Rating: ★★★★

Record and Artist Details

Musicians:

Meshell Ndegeocello (b)
Pete Rock (prod)
Jeff Parker (b)
Rashaan Carter
Brandee Younger
Junius Paul (b)
Joel Ross (vb)
Makaya McCraven (d)

Label:

Impulse! Records

June/2023

Media Format:

CD, LP, DL

RecordDate:

Rec. date not stated

If there’s a sampled harp in a hip-hop cut, Dorothy Ashby probably has something to do with it. An artist who released a clutch of influential, instrument-defining albums (Hip Harp, Afro-Harping, Dorothy’s Harp), popped up as a session player with Stevie Wonder and Minnie Riperton, and was sampled by Madlib, J Dilla and Pete Rock, it’s a perennial shame that we don’t know much about Ashby the artist, to flesh out the rich musical legacy she leaves.

Following her expansive major-label debut Somewhere Different (also on Impulse!), Brandee Younger directly champions Ashby’s compositions on Brand New Life, placing previously unrecorded Ashby compositions alongside some of her own work, effortlessly travelling between past and present in the process.

Like the best tribute albums, Younger avoids mimicry, diving into Ashby’s legacy to spin new stories that luxuriate in their powerful frames of reference. Newly unearthed Ashby standard ‘You’re A Girl For One Man Only’ sets the tone for an understated album full of groove (the album is produced by Makaya McCraven, which figures). Younger delves further into hip-hop, inviting Pete Rock for a feature on ‘Livin’ and Lovin’ in My Own Way’ and 9th Wonder for a low-slung take on ‘The Windmills of Your Mind’; both feel like golden-age classics. The album doesn’t travel too far from Ashby’s originals, but that only helps elide the voices of Ashby and Younger to form a strikingly cohesive whole. Jazz harp is enjoying its time in the sun at the moment, and this album is up there with the best.

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