Be A Light
Street Date: June 18, 2021
Generations is the highly-anticipated new album by 3X GRAMMY® -nominated duo The Baylor Project. Released during Black Music Month and on the eve of Juneteenth, June 18th, 2021, this soulful sonic story quilt celebrates the universality of the human condition, viewed through the lens of the Black experience. Married musical partners Marcus and Jean Baylor welcome listeners to their proverbial kitchen table, as they pass on stories of family and faith, and love and legacy over the course of nine original compositions, and two covers.
Anchored by Jean’s crystal-clear vocals, and Marcus’ commanding mastery on the drums, Generations features an overabundance of first-call collaborators including special guests Kenny Garrett, Dianne Reeves, Jazzmeia Horn, Jamison Ross, and Sullivan Fortner, as well as a rock-solid band featuring pianists Shedrick Mitchell and Terry Brewer, bassists Dezron Douglas, Ben Williams, D.J. Ginyard, Richie Goods guitarists Rayfield “Ray Ray”Holloman and Marvin Sewell, saxophonists Keith Loftis and Korey Riker, trumpeters Freddie Hendrix and Christopher Michael Stevens, trombonists Mark Williams and Aaron “Goody” Goode, percussionists Pablo Batista and Aaron Draper and harpist Brandee Younger. A pristine string section augments three of the albums’ tracks, delivering lush string arrangements by Geoffrey Keezer and Darin Atwater.
Storytelling has always been central to the Baylor Project’s creative output, and they have shown a particular adeptness at making their personal stories universally felt. They accomplish this and then some on Generations, which shares poignant stories of the Black experience, influenced by their own unique perspective. In his liner notes for Generations, noted cultural critic Andre Kimo Stone Guess introduces the age-old traditions of quilt making in Black families, and how when these tri-layer textiles are passed down from one generation to the next, their stories go with it. Generations is just like this, he says, but instead of sewing squares, Marcus and Jean poured their heart and soul into a meaningful audio capsule that celebrates love, family, community and faith.
The Baylor Project notably rose to prominence in 2017 when they released their debut album The Journey. A smashing international success, it debuted at #1 and #8 on the iTunes and Billboard Jazz charts respectively, garnered world-wide acclaim from top-tier media, and went on to receive two GRAMMY® nominations (for Best Jazz Vocal Album and Best Traditional R&B Performance for their song “Laugh And Move On”). “The Journey was an introduction to the Baylor Project and established that foundation of our sound,” explains Marcus. “Generations is an extension of that sound and goes way deeper into our story, life and culture.”
While the majority of Generations was recorded prior to 2020, the coronavirus pandemic kept the project from reaching completion. However, the Baylors continued to work on new music. In April 2020, they released “Sit On Down”, a pandemic-era anthem that went on to snag them their third GRAMMY® nod. They also took this downtime to refocus, and to really re-familiarize themselves with who the Baylor Project really is. By the time Generations was a wrap, Marcus and Jean had created their most fully realized and extraordinary project to date.
Musically, Generations pulls from Marcus and Jean’s varied backgrounds rooted in the church, and steeped in soul, jazz, gospel and blues. Album opener “Strivin’”, featuring special guest and Marcus’ former bandleader, saxophonist Kenny Garrett, is an invigorating boogaloo bounce that immediately sets the mood with it’s Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles leanings. The interlude that follows instantly transports listeners into the Baylor’s living room, as family members of all ages reminisce on love and life. This endearing introduction gives way to the shuffling high point “Happy To Be With You”, which emits an after-church, celebratory air.
Gears shift on the reflective reimagining of “Loves Makes Me Sing”, made famous by R&B songwriter and singer Michael Wykoff in 1980. On this contemporary update, Jean’s crystalline vocals find support in a lush string arrangement by Geoffrey Keezer. Wayne Shorter’s “Infant Eyes,” featuring original lyrics by Jean, comes next, followed by one of the album centerpieces. That would be “2020”, a prayer sang in the form of a blues that takes a page from the Negro Spitirual in spirit. The pulse of the beat leads into the heart of Jean’s wrenching cry, which draws parallels between the racial oppression of yesterday, with the all too prevalent injustices seen today. That same pulsating beat culminates in a fiery drum solo by Marcus that encapsulates the song in its entirety.
A major highlight of Generations is the upbeat vocal summit in session on “We Swing (The Cypher)”. Jean is the intergenerational bridge between Dianne Reeves and Jazzmeia Horn, a couple of powerhouse jazz vocalists representing two different generations in this celebration of resilience and love. The lush “Becoming” takes inspiration from the majestic balladry of Shirley Horn, and lyrically nods to Michelle Obama’s inspiring biography “Becoming”. “[“Becoming”] really connects the story of Generations by highlighting our individual and collective process of growth through seasons of life,” says Jean.
“Black Boy” is a somber and telling drama shaped by the age-old realities of racism in current society. Haunting and beautiful, this sweeping composition is also adorned by strings, this time arranged by Darin Atwater. This song asks questions nobody can answer – but yet, even in its heaviness, undeterred faith remains strong. The R&B/soul infused “Walk On By” comes next, followed by the Thelonious Monk-inspired “Do You Remember This?” This reminiscence of earlier times features Jean and Sullivan Fortner in angular vocal-piano interplay before easing into a hard-swinging common time break.
Generations comes full circle toward the end, as it brings listeners back to the Baylor Project’s Gospel roots with the help of the multifaceted Jamison Ross on vocals. Coming from a similar upbringing in the Black church like Marcus and Jean, Jamison, the grandson of a pastor, is the perfect vessel to convey a wise parting message that faith is the answer through the darkness. This is further reinforced with the last track “The Benediction”, which closes the album with an electrifying message of purpose delivered by their brother, Apostle Larry J. Baylor.
On Generations, The Baylor Project has created a masterful musical exploration that is both timely and timeless. “We hope every listener enjoys this celebration and comes away with a renewed desire to honor those who came before us while positively impacting the next generation,” says The Baylors.
The Baylor Project is proud to be nominated alongside Chloe X Halle, Ledisi, YEBBA and Mykal Kilgore.
"Sit On Down"
63rd GRAMMY Award Nominee for Best Traditional R&B Performance
“Sit On Down” is the soulful pandemic-era anthem by The Baylor Project.
The Baylor Project conceived, composed and recorded “Sit On Down” during the first COVID-19 lockdown, making it a song perfectly suited for our time. Originally, #SitOnDown was a viral challenge, started by the married duo at home. Known for their fly-on-the-wall, humorous live videos on Facebook, Marcus and Jean went live with their many fans one evening while making a dinner, and humorously implored their viewers in song to just stay home and #SitOnDown. Not long after, fans, friends and colleagues from all over the world started sharing their own versions of #SitOnDown, which inspired the Baylors to cut the track. One of the challenges in particular that stood out came from a friend and fellow musician/producer, Ondre J. Pivec, who was quarantined in Prague during a tour with Gregory Porter. With Pivec on board as co-producer, The Baylor Project added Rayford “Ray Ray Holloman (Robert Randolph) on guitar and Wayne Moore (Beck) on bass. They recorded “Sit On Down” in their home studio, and even completed a remote photo shoot with their iPhone in true quarantine-format. Proceeds from the first round of sales and related merchandise were donated to Jazz Bridge, a Philadelphia based non-profit organization that supports jazz and blues musicians during times of crisis.
Read more here.
Be A Light
Street Date: February 10, 2017
2018 Grammy Nominated
Best Jazz Vocal Album for "The Journey"
Best Traditional R&B Performance for "Laugh and Move On"
Steeped in the heart and soul of jazz, Marcus and Jean Baylor’s highly anticipated collaboration showcases the grace and glory, versatility and virtuosity of a truly extraordinary musical union.
Read more here.
GEORGE W. HARRIS
"This wonderful album puts the “soul” back into soul music. Are they ever going to come to So Cal?" Read this review here.
"When Marcus Baylor presented his wife Jean with idea of collaboration, she had a healthy amount of trepidation about the appeal of a drum-and-vocal duo. Two albums and three Grammy nominations later, it's safe to say they're on to something here." Feature interview on The Pulse here.
BOSTON CONCERT REVIEWS
The recording quality of Generations captures all this superb musicianship with excellent tactile detail and tonal naturalness. Every voice, brass surge or stick on snare is pinpointed in its own airy space, crackling with dynamic presence. Read this review here.
"From one song to the next, we are treated to the exquisite silkiness of Jean's vocals and Marcus' incredible finesse on the kit, which together create an album that is incredibly moving and relevant. Gospel, jazz, R&B, soul, blues — it's a complete package." Read more here.
"Musically, lyrically, emotionally, Generations is an album which is impossible not to love." Review here.
"It will be stunning if Generations does not result in a fourth Grammy nod. A win would certainly not be stunning either." Read this review here.
CANCIÓN A QUEMARROPA
Sale a aire el nuevo disco Generations, el nuevo álbum del dúo nominado por tres ocasiones a los premios Grammys, The Baylor Project. El próximo 18 de junio de 2021 se podrá disfrutar definitivamente de esta conmovedora conjunción de canciones basadas en historias que celebra la universalidad de la condición humana, vista a través de la lente de la experiencia negra. Para leer mas presione aquí.
"Just as the album effortlessly integrates guests and inspirations into the fold, the music flows freely between tempos and genres. There are plenty of ways to make an academic presentation about the core similarities of African-American musical styles, but Marcus and Jean Baylor have found a fun and captivating approach." Review here.
Read the full 20 questions feature in the July 2021 issue of Echoes Magazine.
THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER
"In his liner notes for Generations, writer Andre Kimo Stone Guess draws parallels between the album and the African American quilt-making tradition, with its artistic, communal, and historic connections. It’s an apt analogy given the stylistic reach and wealth of experience covered by the Baylors, who draw from jazz, R&B, gospel, and spirituals for inspiration." Review here.
For The Journey & "Sit On Down"
KEVIN C. JOHNSON
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Clearly, getting a Grammy nomination never gets old. In 2018, the Baylor Project was nominated for best traditional R&B performance (“Laugh and Move On”) and for best jazz vocal album (“The Journey”) but didn’t take home any awards. Read this feature here.
"The Baylor Project is about soul. Not just soul as a style, but soul as substance. Soul as propulsion. Soul as purpose. Soul as meaning." Read the full feature here.
"The album was born between Saturday evening in a jazz club and a Sunday morning service at the church." Read full Russian review here.
A. SCOTT GALLOWAY
URBAN MUSIC SCENE
"Married musicians vocalist Jean Baylor and drummer Marcus Baylor have created a captivating “project” that meets at the 3-way intersection of Jazz, Gospel and Legacy." Reda the full review here.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"This is an excellent portrait of African-American music, showcasing where it came from, and where it is now." Read full review here.
LONDON JAZZ NEWS
"...it’s a generous, charming album with a rich sound which places a marker in the sand and promises a solid future. The abiding strength of the project is its joyousness, and that counts for a lot." Read full review here.
NEW YORK TIMES
FIRST JAZZ PICK OF THE WEEK
"Jean and Marcus Baylor are a married couple whose buoyant, convivial music unites gospel, jazz and R&B." Read full feature here.
"Jean and Marcus Baylor are movements by themselves, and with the release of The Journey they'll show that they're a force when they're together." Read full feature here.
"The Journey masterfully traverses through a myriad of sonic soundscapes and has that unique ability to reach out from your headphones and speakers and captivate your full attention from the first cut to the last." Read the full interview here.
The Baylor Project Talks New Album ‘The Journey,’ Marriage, Musical Roots, & More. Check out the feature here.
Block Party: "Marcus’s drums drive the 7:53 track to new heights of soulfulness, with Jean’s high-energy vocals propelling you into the soul-o-sphere". Read the full feature here.
"In January in the midst of dozens of bands and musicians playing at New York’s astonishing Winter Jazzfest, a capacity crowd crammed into the Zinc Bar narrow space and was captivated by the husband-wife collaboration of Marcus and Jean Baylor leading a their band into a rousing and glorified set of soulful and graceful music." Read full feature here.
BEBOP SPOKEN HERE
"The aim of this innovative, collaborative project was to create spiritual, buoyant feel-good music." Full review here.
"The Baylor Project harkens on jazz soul, as husband Marcus Baylor’s soft drum leads a pianist and string band while his mezzo-soprano wife Jean Baylor takes A to middle C vocal command on “Laugh And Move On”." Read the full feature here.
"The versatile drummer also shines while energizing the well-traveled “Our Love Is Here to Stay,” channeling Elvin Jones on Afro Blue, and ad-libbing on the free-form Journey.” Read full feature here.
GEORGE W. HARRIS
"A great guided tour, and this family does the right narration". Read the full feature here.
THE MORNING CALL
"The music heard on “The Journey” is like taking a stroll through the Baylors’ life, too. But the genres heard on the album also put different styles of music from the African-American community into conversation with one another." Read the full interview here.
RAUL DA GAMA
JAZZ DA GAMA
"This is a partnership built on love for each other and in such a partnership the playing crackles with drama and energy of a live performance on this magnificent debut recording together: The Journey." Read the full review here.
ASBURY PARK PRESS
"The Journey is the Baylors’ first full collaboration together and the couple’s big tent sound, ranging from jazz to R&B to gospel, is agreeably esoteric without being obtuse. Nuanced without being fussy and a joy on many levels." Read the full feature here.