Album: BIRCKHEAD
Street Date: February 22, 2019
Label: REVIVE

Rooted in activism, introspection and sonic experimentation, the eleven-track album provides a schema for unflinching ownership of oneself through singular artistic works. With it, Birckhead is poised to take his place in a storied lineage of maverick woodwind artists.

An introduction to the man and his music, the eponymous release is named to reflect Birckhead's desire that his first formal offering serve as a bold statement of purpose, comprised of deeply personal compositions. Punctuated by his preferred mononym, he enforces a profound sense of duty to propagate a rich musical legacy and catalyzes a reclamation of personal identity. First employed as a mechanism to specify colonial ownership of his enslaved ancestors, the word “Birckhead” now becomes a benchmark for dynamism - the album surpasses the conventions of subjugation and challenges standards of popular music.

Recorded during one six-hour session and driven by topics as varied as love, familial history and the fraught nature of the modern black experience, BIRCKHEAD is an album that is split down the middle thematically. The tracklisting is partially inspired by events dominating the news cycle while other pieces focus on Birckhead’s “family, growth and perspective.” Guitarist Samir Moulay and trombonist Corey Wallace also contribute to the recording, which boasts the Freddie Gray-inspired “Suite 187”; the mournful trio of songs about the impact of state violence and the subsequent onset of trauma introduces listeners to the lifespan of a tragedy. The suite opens with a cadence of drum strikes that simulate gunfire before the melody blooms into riotous pandemonium on “The Witching Hour”. BIRCKHEAD closes with a cover of “Someday We’ll All Be Free”, popularized by Donny Hathaway. The song is a nod to human rights movements and the inevitability of freedom.

“4 And 6” is the sonic embodiment of the philosophical and societal shifts that Birckhead envisions. The futurist tune is buoyed by a conversational melody that suggests differing perspectives and encourages problem solving in a climate of inaction and resentment. “Flux” is a tune that pulls inspiration for its evocative tone from the Ahmad Jamal classic “Poinciana”. While album opener“3 Uptown” recalls Birckhead’s move from Brownsville, Brooklyn to Harlem, where he first felt a part of the fabric of New York City, “Song For Nicole” is a tender ode to Birckhead’s wife, Christian Nicole. It opens with a whisper-soft prelude that descends from honeymoon bliss into an impassioned flood of emotion that lays bare the depth of their union. “The Alchemist” recalls the Paulo Coelho book of the same name about the power of manifestation –– a key component of Birckhead’s success. “Ivory Antidote” references the middle name Birckhead proudly shares with his grandfather, which inspired the release.

From the rage of punk and political activism to the nuanced soul of classic R&B, the murky wobble of funk and the unbridled freedom of out jazz, BIRCKHEAD captures fearlessness as deftly as it encapsulates a sustained effort to live a purpose-driven life. Birckhead describes the project as a culmination of his experiences to date.

 

GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO
NEW YORK TIMES
"On his impressive debut album, “Birckhead,” his R&B sojourns and his straight-ahead jazz background come to bear, resulting in a sound that skates the divide between svelte swagger and cutting passion. The record finds the young bandleader meditating on romance, personal growth and the travails of his native Baltimore."  Read the full review here

PHIL FREEMAN
STEREOGUM
"Birckhead is a soulful, R&B-style saxophonist with a smooth but frequently emotional delivery. His bandmates match his energy; Dashiell hits hard, more like a rock drummer than a jazz drummer, while Meadows pounds out big, florid chords and Mendez maintains a steady, booming pulse"  Read the full review here.

JACKSON SINNENBERG
CAPITAL BOP
"Brent Birckhead is an archetypal product of the D.C. jazz scene. He’s a strong straight-ahead player, but also well-versed in go-go, R&B and the other popular sounds of the city. And like much of the music emanating from U Street venues these days, his own efforts as a bandleader merge all those stylistic elements seamlessly." Full interview here

RON SCHEPPER
TEXTURA
"While BIRCKHEAD isn't a straight-up blowing session, it certainly presents the alto saxophonist as a player of formidable facility and imagination." Read the full review here.

MIKE JURKOVIC
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Bridging his activist sensibilities and his musical experimentation, "The Witching Hour" comes at you like shots fired on any given American night, while the ensemble builds from quiet shock to full on fury, roller coasting along as Birckhead screams defiance and raw emotion."  Read the full review here.

BRENDA NELSON-STRAUSS
BLACKGROOVES
"Birckhead is an auspicious debut from a gifted artist determined to challenge boundaries and mine the depths of his experiences to create works imbued with multiple layers of musical expression, emotional depth, and social commentary."  Read the full review here.

CHRIS SPECTOR
MIDWEST RECORD
"A sure fingered sax man that has a clear vision of what he wants to express, this singularity of his message and vision will grab you as much as they playing."  Read the full review here.

MICHAEL J. WEST
ALCHEMICAL RECORDS
"BIRCKHEAD infuses straight-ahead, swinging post-bop jazz with R&B, soul, and a hell of a charge of funk."  Read the full review here.

D. OSCAR GROOMES
O'S PLACE JAZZ NEWSLETTER
"Brent Birckhead plays energetic music on both contemporary and Modern/Jazz-Fusion genres."

ANTHONY DEAN HARRIS
NEXTBOP
"His new release seems to fit well in a jazz pocket that soothes and uplifts ever so sweetly and may just be a name you should remember." Audio premiere here

IMRAN MIRZA
UK VIBE
"BIRCKHEAD is a statement of intent; the music presented on this album is Brent Birckhead using his art to declare precisely who he knows he is and it’s as sure and confident a piece of work." Read the full 5/5 review here.

DANIELE CAMERLENGO
SUONO (ITALY)
"...a succession of images and emotional states represented by the sacred and emotional sound of Brent's saxophone." Read the full review here.

 
 
 

STEPHANIE JONES
HOT HOUSE
"In his lines and across his compositions, Brent plays with an ever-present urgency; his artistry includes visual narratives, social stories and historical reflection." Read the full review here