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Kosi: I Know Who I Am

James Nadal By

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With a resolute commitment to her art, singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer Kosi (Akosua Gyebi) has recently released various acclaimed records, culminating with a superb tribute to Abbey Lincoln, Ghosts Appearing through the Sound in 2015. The aptly titled I Know Who I Am is a personal odyssey through love, guilt, and absolution, leading to self-acceptance and validation, expressed with a voice that flows impeccably from jazz to spirituals, that never wanders far from the blues.

Accompanied by the musicians that have worked with her throughout past productions, the music feels relaxed, yet assertive, with the proper amount of urgency required to convey such sentiments. The journey commences with an intro snippet of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," which sets the tone for the conceptual arc of the project, leading into Kosi's flexile vocal swirling around the incantation "Elder Washington," depicting a soulful praising and cleansing anthem, buoyed by John Lander's refined piano articulations.

Her composing skills begin to shine with "Guilty," a tale of confession where the tenor sax of Brendon Biagi accentuates the admission of emotional crimes, concealed for too long. "Servant's Prayer," is augmented by layered recitations in Latin, Hebrew, and Arabic, in an uncommon rendition of this enduring Negro spiritual. The original "Lament in A Minor," has her on acoustic guitar, while Aron Marchak plays deft electric guitar fills around the lyrical cry. This two guitar arrangement continues with a soft-rock slant on "Your Angel," as the shackles of doubt and pain begin to slowly disappear, and life has a fresh purpose.

The mournful flugelhorn by Satish Robertson is the solitary accompaniment on "Walk With Me," a sacred plea for holy companionship on the arduous road ahead. Blues entangles the blessed in "Father So Wise," sax man Biagi returning to play singular jazz lines on the horn, joining Kosi in syncopated melodic interplay. "Hallelujah," is reprised in its full resplendent decorum, then it slides into raw electric blues with "Since I Laid My Burden Down," highlighted by vocalist Vincent Parker joining in for inspiring down home testifying.

As if saving her best for last, the ballad "Morning After Blues," has Kosi looking at herself and the exhortation "I Know Who I Am," is finally revealed to be true. Kudos to pianist Lander who reappears to offer flawless piano accompaniment on this passionate manifestation, rattling the chandeliers with hopeful and redemptive vibrations. In a bonus track, they revisit the Abbey Lincoln songbook with "Wholly Earth." Performed in an acoustic trio setting, with Kosi on guitar, Christopher Hall on bass, and Satish Robertson returns, this time on eloquent trumpet. Absorbing Lincoln well, she takes this song into an improvised orbit, where jazz and blues, sacred and secular, black and white, all fade into one world, one love, the way it's meant to be.

Kosi is a devoted singer who wears her heart on her sleeve, there is no grey area, no stones left unturned, and no feelings to hide. This is a transcendental self-portrait, inspiration culled from the darkest shadows of the soul is hurled into the light. She knows who she is.

Track Listing: Intro(Hallelujah); Elder Washington; Guilty; Servant’s Prayer; Lament In A Minor; Your Angel; Walk With Me; Father So Wise (Elder Washington); Hallelujah; Since I Laid My Burdens Down; Morning After Blues, Wholly Earth.

Personnel: Kosi: vocals, acoustic guitar (5, 6, 12); Vincent Parker: vocals (10); Brendan Biagi: tenor sax (3, 8); Satish Robertson: flugelhorn (7, 9), trumpet (12); Aron Marchak: guitar (3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10); John Lander: piano (2, 11); Christopher Hall: bass (3, 6, 8, 9, 12); Isaiah Pierce: drums (3, 6, 8, 9); Ian Koranek: recitation/Latin (4); Daniel Leeds: recitation/Hebrew (4); Abdallah Oubacki: recitation/Arabic (4).

Title: I Know Who I Am | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Self Produced

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