Cousin From Another Planet
Street Date: June 21, 2019
Award-winning record producer, composer, songwriter, pianist, engineer and educator AaronWhitby is proud to present his debut as a bandleader, Cousin From Another Planet out on June 21. Released by Ropeadope, this heavy-hitting, funk, fusion and prog influenced epic, described by noted music writer Greg Tate as “percolating, stimulating and motor-booty activatin’...one of this era’s hardiest re-dedications and festival-tent revival of soulful and exploratory jam-gnocity”, is sure to impress audiences with Whitby’s serious compositional construction and the ensemble’s lowdown improvisational bravura. Cousin From Another Planet makes bold statements about unity and activism without losing the humor and playfulness that the artist was striving for upon the album’s composition. This album features Aaron Whitbyon keys, Keith Loftis on saxophone, Charles Burnham on violin, Rodney Holmes on drums,Fred Cash and Jerome Harris on bass, Gary Fritz on percussion, Martha Redbone and Lisa Fischer on vocals, and Rome Neal and Tamar-Kali reciting spoken word. The ensemble will be celebrating their new release with a performance at Nublu on Sunday June 23rd. Whitby will be performing two sets from 8-10:30pm.
After many years as a studio rat working with an array of noteworthy artists-- George Clinton, Natalie Cole, Randy Brecker, and Martha Redbone to name a few, Londoner Whitby releases his debut album, allowing his creative voice and ebullient piano playing to be heard. Steeped in the world of classic jazz and fusion, this album covers serious ground, allowing the composer’s disparate influences from his years of working in the RnB, Pop, Folk and World idioms to run free, all the while maintaining a unified compositional voice. “It’s important for me to make music with no walls,” says the composer “letting the conversation flow freely to create improvisational spaces where musicians can really dig in. To this end I generally avoided standard jazz forms where everyone solos over a set of changes, and instead write tunes that set up themes with tonal centers that could be approached from different points of view.” This compositional style leaves room for the personality of each of the six performers to shine through, and for stunning interplay between saxophonist Loftis and Whitby.
Whitby said “I knew [Loftis] would bring the classic tenor sound and melodic elegance I wanted to contrast with the electrified and idiosyncratic nature of much of the surrounding music.” This is certainly true of the first track of the album Sleeping Giant. The mutronically enhanced bass provided by Fred Cash and spoken word provided by actor/director Rome Neal along with the vocals of Tamar-kali harken back to the sound of early Parliament Funkadelic, but the track is rounded out by the warm tenor sound of Loftis’ saxophone solo.
The album’s title track pays homage to John Sayles Afrofuturist film classic ‘Brother From Another Planet’ while lyrically enfolding Whitby’s humorously expressed sense of himself as an immigrant, radical fellow traveler and musical messenger on a righteous mission—artistic engagement in justice work within his core adopted, embracing communities, Black and indigenous America. The composer stated that most of the tunes on the album were composed while walking his son to elementary school in Brooklyn. Whitby hopes that the album captures some of his son’s energy, innocent optimism, and cartoonish antics. The second track Walking With Z (named after the artist’s beloved son Zach) provides a rollicking admixture of Ellingtonian romanticism and roadhouse earthquake. With dazzling melodic invention being traded between Loftis’s horn and Burnham’s strings, this piece perfectly encapsulates the playful and tender qualities that the artist associates with an early-morning walk through Brooklyn with his son.
Showing the artist’s deep roots in jazz, the only cover on the album is Whitby’s reimagining of Herbie Hancock’s classic The Eye of the Hurricane which he entitles The Eye of the Hurricane 2.0. This rendition preserves the harmonic punch of Hancock’s original arrangement but infuses elements of Whitby’s compositional voice, creating a mash-up of the original and a new tune allowing himself, Loftis, Burnham and drummer Rodney Holmes to explore with great élan in their respective solos.
Whitby and comrades will be performing widely and many of these concerts will be accompanied by improvised visuals from VJ Lady Firefly whose fantastic work has previously been seen with The Roots and Dave Chappelle.
More information about Aaron Whitby:
Londoner Whitby, who moved to Brooklyn in 1997, is best known for his work with longtime collaborator and wife Martha Redbone, the acclaimed Native/African-American songstress with whom he created the music genre ‘Native Soul’ and subsequently took poet William Blake to Appalachia. The albums they co-wrote/co-produced include; “Home of the Brave”, “Skintalk” and “The Garden of Love – Songs of William Blake” which have received numerous awards and widespread critical acclaim. Currently the team are touring “Bone Hill- The Concert”, a devised, multi-disciplinary theatrical concert originally commissioned by Joe’s Pub, the NEA and the Lincoln Center for the Arts. Whitby and Redbone are recipients of the NEFA NTP Award and an NPN Creation Fund Award, and are currently developing a new musical commissioned by thePublic Theater in NYC supported in part by the MAP Fund and Creative Capital.
Mentored by Ohio Player/Funkadelic Walter ‘Junie’ Morrison, Whitby has recorded with; Natalie Cole for her Grammy-winning single “Livin' for Love”, George Clinton, Randy Brecker, Lisa Fischer, Tony Trischka, John McEuen, Raul Midon, Neil Sedaka, Scott English, David Amram, Alex Bugnon, Rodney Holmes, Harvey Goldberg, Snehasish Mozumder, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Jonathan Spottiswoode, Keith Secola among many others. Whitby has performed with; Nona Hendryx, Brian Jackson, Vernon Reid of Living Colour, Ben Sollee, Sandra St Victor, Mino Cinelu, Brooklyn Raga Massive, Mary Fahl, R. Carlos Nakai , the Super Combo Kings and Jojo Kuo among many others.
Whitby is also Musical Director for Martha Redbone’s bands which feature a roll call of NYC’s finest including; Fred Cash, Alan AB Burroughs, Charlie Burnham, Marvin Sewell, Rocky Bryant, Tony Mason, the late Michael ‘Dino’ Campbell, Toby Williams, Kevin Johnson, Jerome Harris, Keith Anthony Fluitt, Karen Bernod, John James, Zach Brock, Robin Macatangay, Ron Jenkins, Abe Fogle, Gene Lake, Daniel Sadownick, Teddy Kumpel, Skoota Warner, Adrian Harpham, Eddie Allen, Keith Loftis, Ada Rovatti, Mazz Swift, LaJuan Carter, Graham Hawthorne, Jonathon Maron and Gary Foote.
Recent performances with Voices of a People’s History in NYC have brought Whitby to the stage alongside notable actors Frances McDormand, Marisa Tomei, Maggie Gyllenhall, Aasif Mandvi, Viggo Mortensen, music performers Talib Kweli, Stew and Heidi and poet StaceyAnn Chin.
Whitby’s theatrical commissions include composer for New York Theater Workshop “The Plurality of Privacy”, Gung Ho Theater Company, “Flood in the Valley”, a collaboration in Sichuan, China with an indigenous theater company of the Yi Minority (Nuosu People) and Rachel Chavkin’s “Primer for a Failed Superpower”.
A dedicated music educator Whitby specializes in group work. He has given workshops at numerous universities and been a visiting teaching artist at grade schools in both NYC and London, England.
Derived from liner notes written by Greg Tate
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
”Whitby is a very in demand instrumentalist with a place in P-Funk mythology...While the more overt funk is what initially impresses, there are also cuts that are more progressive.” Read the full review here.
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
"Without sacrificing the funk, Whitby whips up a few dazzling ensemble flourishes worthy of Frank Zappa, some heavily-produced, oneiric sounds redolent of 1970s art-rock, and jazzy mazes of soloing in which one can happily lose one's self." Read the full review here.
"Whitby, skillful in playing the piano, Fender Rhodes and various synthesizers, has a striking composing style." Read the full review here.
ANTHONY DEAN HARRIS
“Aaron Whitby has been a session player for years, backing folks like Randy Brecker, Natalie Cole, George Clinton, and his wife Martha Redbone. In this time, his own voice as a pianist definitely picked up a lot, which may show why he has such a steady hand as a leader in his debut album." Full review here.
"Whitby has potentially delivered his tour de force. This could be the record he’s longed to make – the project that serves as the culmination of years of studio and live collaborations, a homage to his own influences as well as the chance to establish Whitby’s own name amongst these masters." Review here.
"...a variety of styles consolidated into an impressive compositional display, featuring genres from Whitby’s musical journey which include pop, folk, R&B and funk." Read the full review here.
DEE DEE MCNEIL
"You will discover that Aaron Whitby is a storyteller, a band leader and an admirable composer. You will hear something new and fresh each time you play this album. Expect the unexpected." Review here.
“Aaron Whitby’s sonic explorations on Cousin From Another Planet are nothing short of a jazz fusion masterpiece”. Read the full review here.
"It’s a mash-up of funk, fusion, and prog , sure to please fusion and jam-band aficionados. His bold piano playing is often front and center as he draws from classic jazz and fusion with echoes from his many years of working in R&B, Pop, Folk, and World." Read the full review here.