Hailed as “the future of the trumpet” by Wynton Marsalis, Keyon Harrold is the GRAMMY-winning musician, born and raised in Ferguson, MO, the St. Louis suburb that tore into America’s national consciousness in 2014 with the police shooting of Michael Brown.
The unarmed teen’s death, as well as the bitter protests and riots that followed, weigh heavily on Harrold’s stunning new album, ‘The Mugician,’ but the record examines our troubled times through a far wider lens than any one tragedy, combining cutting, insightful lyrics and spoken word passages with evocative, often-heartbreaking musical arrangements to paint a portrait of a deeply divided nation, one still grappling daily with the raw, open wounds of discrimination. It’s a difficult record to categorize; sweeping and cinematic, the music draws on elements of jazz, classical, rock, blues, and hip hop to create something uniquely modern and unmistakably American. Guests from across the spectrum including Pharoahe Monch, Gary Clark, Jr., Big K.R.I.T., Guy Torry, Georgia Anne Muldrow and Robert Glasper add to the record’s eclectic nature, but it ultimately triumphs as a unified, cohesive whole both because of Harrold’s virtuosic skill as a trumpeter and songwriter and because of his relentlessly optimistic belief in brighter days to come. These are songs of longing and ache, to be sure, but they’re also songs of hope and desire, of faith in the future and in his fellow man.
“Even when things don’t work out the way they’re supposed to, I believe in people and I believe in their good nature,” says Keyon Harrold. “As an artist, I choose to paint from the perspective that things will get better.”
“I literally love humanity and always try to see the beauty in it,” Harrold explains. “I truly believe that everybody has the ability to change and move forward and look at things positively.”
Harrold grew up one of 16 children in a family that prioritized music and community across generations. His grandfather was a police officer who retired from the force to found a drum and bugle corps for local youth, both of his parents were pastors, and nearly all of his siblings sing and perform music today (including his GRAMMY-winning brother, Emmanuel, who currently plays drums with Gregory Porter).
“Music was something meant to be played together,” reflects Harrold. “All my siblings and cousins had to take part in the drum and bugle corps. My sisters were in the choir, and we all sang and played in church, too. Music was everything to us.”
Culture shock hit Harrold hard at 18, when he left Ferguson for New York City to enroll in The New School. In New York, he landed his first major gig performing with Common, an experience which he says broadened his musical horizons beyond the jazz and swing he’d been studying to include funk, Afrobeat, R&B, and hip hop. It didn’t take long for the wider world to catch on to Harrold’s singular talent, and soon he was performing onstage and in the studio with stars like Snoop Dogg, Jay Z, Beyonce, Rihanna, Eminem, Maxwell, and Anthony Hamilton. He toured with the Count Basie and Roy Hargrove Big Bands, hit the road with Cirque du Soleil’s acclaimed ‘Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour,’ and won a GRAMMY for his trumpet performances in Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis biopic ‘Miles Ahead.’ In 2009, Harrold released his solo debut, ‘Introducing Keyon Harrold,’ which prompted All Music to hail him as one of the “leading jazz trumpet players of a new generation.”
This is a standing show.