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Keyon Harrold: The Mugician

Thomas Earl By

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Back in October of 2015, Keyon Harrold had his laptop and seven hard drives worth of material stolen from his car in New York. Although intended for his second album, Harrold's reaction was indicative of his attitude to life and music, stating philosophically, "the universe says that wasn't supposed to come out."

Thankfully, two tracks were saved, one of which ("Wayfaring Traveler") serves as a highlight of Harrold's latest album, The Mugician. The rhythm section provides a solid framework that recurs throughout the release, alternating with zeal between two harmonies in a technique which reveals Harrold's hip-hop roots. The melody rings in the ears long after the album's conclusion, while Harrold's trumpet glistens celestially above, sitting so far behind the beat as to flirt with a different time signature entirely.

While many modern musicians shy away from tackling the febrile world of politics, Harrold revels in it. His song "Circus Show," which features Gary Clark, Jr. on vocals, leaves little room for interpretation, castigating America's desire to build a "crazy wall" against the refrain, "what the hell's going on?" The title "Circus Show" itself offers a fitting commentary, evoking something fantastical and darkly comic.

Just as Bobby McFerrin opened many ears to the possibilities of the human voice, so Harrold can generate sounds that have no business coming out of a trumpet. Over the voice of American singer-songwriter Bilal on "Stay This Way," Harrold employs an array of howls and whines to delineate his own narrative inspired by the happenings below, elevating the vocal lines to a realm words cannot reach. In "Voicemail," Keyon dexterously builds the music around an inspiring phone message left by his mother to form something that would not feel out of place in a Nike ad.

Harrold spent years working his way up through the industry as a respected sideman to the likes of Eminem, Beyoncé and{Jay-Z, committed to, in his words, "making other people sound wonderful." His first solo album in eight years marks his graduation from sideman to leader, assisted by the wave generated by the film "Miles Ahead" for which Keyon dubbed Don Cheadle's trumpet. Although a protégé of Wynton Marsalis, he and Harrold are different players. Keyon blends the reflections of Miles Davis with the attitude of Christian Scott to form something relevant and cool. And it is this sound, honed yet raw, that announces Keyon Harrold onto the scene, not as a sideman, but a serious player among equals.

Track Listing: Voicemail; The Mugician; MB Lament; When Will It Stop?; Wayfaring Traveler; Stay This Way; Lullaby; Her Beauty Through My Eyes; Ethereal Souls; Broken News; Circus Show; Bubba Rides Again.

Personnel: Keyon Harrold: trumpet; other unlisted musicians.

Title: The Mugician | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Legacy Recordings

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