Keyon Harrold was born and raised in Ferguson, MO, a St. Louis suburb. While Ferguson looms large in Harrold’s album The Mugician, it examines the troubled times its most humble inhabitants underwent. Sweeping and cinematic, the music draws on elements of jazz, classical, rock, blues, and hip hop to create something uniquely modern, unmistakeably American. Guests 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 composer and because of his relentlessly optimistic belief in “brighter days to come”.
Culture shock hit Harrold hard at the age of 18, when he left Ferguson for New York City to enroll in The New School. In New York, he landed his first major gig with Common, an experience which he says broadened his musical horizons beyond jazz to include funk, Afrobeat, R&B, and hip hop. Soon he was performing with stars like Snoop Dogg, Jay Z, Beyonce, Rihanna, Eminem, Maxwell, and Anthony Hamilton.
In 2009, he released his solo debut, Introducing Keyon Harrold and then won wide acclaim for his trumpet performances in Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead.
In his work Mugician, which is a portmanteau of “musician” and “magician”, Harrold pushes beyond the traditional boundaries of jazz trumpet. In fact, the album doesn’t even begin with trumpet, but rather with a track called ‘Voicemail,’ which features an inspirational message from Harrold’s mother set to a stirring, orchestral soundscape. Entirely unedited, her words lay the groundwork for an album that celebrates the importance of family (ten of Keyon’s siblings appear on the record) and the absolute necessity of optimism in the face of darkness and doubt. Issues of identity and equality percolate throughout the record, sometimes subtly beneath the surface. However, the album’s most powerful moments come with the one-two punch of “MB Lament” and “When Will It Stop,” songs written in the wake of Michael Brown’s death and the senseless killings of so many others like him.
Keyon Harrold: Tumpet, Vocals
Shedrick Mitchell: Piano
Nir Felder: Guitar
Burniss Travis: Bass
Charles Haynes: Drums
Featuring Andrea Pizziconi – vocals