By: Dee Dee McNeil, Musical Memoirs
Curtis Nowosad is Canadian born. He’s thirty-one-years-old and his music is wrapped in the history of blues, jazz, rhythm and blues, combined with a desire for social justice. His New York-based jazz ensemble interprets their protest musically. Four of the five original compositions that Nowosad has written are dedicated to those who have suffered human rights atrocities including “Never Forget What They Did to Fred Hampton.”
Cut #2 is vocally explored by Michael Mayo, a scat master with a smooth baritone vocal that caresses the chords with improvisational skill. This is one of Nowosad’s original compositions titled, “The Water Protectors.” It has a catchy melody and is infused with vocal harmonics. Mayo’s vocalese sounds like a horn. The track is pushed and propelled by the incendiary drums of Nowosad.
On the third track, “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” is interpreted by vocalist Brianna Thomas with dirge-like horn lines and Matthew Whitaker strong on the organ, along with Andrew Renfroe gritty on guitar. “Waltz for Meg” is an up-tempo, jazz waltz with Curtis Nowosad keeping the tempo timely, but extremely creative on his trap drum set, dancing beneath the soloist melodies with power and precision. On the fade of this tune, Nowosad takes over and the spotlight is turned onto his percussive skills. He does not disappoint.
Straight Ahead jazz enters like a freight train on the tribute tune to Fred Hampton and features an emotional solo by trumpeter, Duane Eubanks. The “Song 4 Marielle Franco” is dedicated to a beautiful, educated, brown-skinned Brazilian woman who was a youthful politician, a feminist and a soldier for human rights. I was introduced to her by this composition. By researching, I discovered that after she earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the Fluminense Federal University, she served as a city council person for the Socialism and Liberty Party in Brazil. She fought for human rights in that position from January 2017 until she was shot dead in March of 2018. She and her driver were killed by two murderers during a ride through North Rio de Janeiro. Two former police officers were later arrested and charged with her execution. Once more, Michael Mayo is back with his smooth scat vocals on this tune and Marc Cary is an added attraction on Fender Rhodes electric piano. Most importantly, Curtis Nowosad called to my attention this heinous crime perpetrated on an awesome woman that I knew nothing about until his record.
This original composition is followed by “Blues 4 Colin K.” It’s funky and features Corey Wallace on a smooth, bluesy trombone solo. Jonathan Thomas is also a huge part of the blues rhythm section on piano, as is his bassist, Luke Sellick, who takes an impressive solo.
All in all, this is a unique musical experience that prompts listeners to both enjoy the music and the musicians, but also may tickle your interest into social and human rights history. Like me, you may find yourself googling to find out more about the people Mr. Nowosad references in his original music compositions.