Brooklyn quintet, On High, are preparing to release a new EP Never Die this April on Rufftone Records. Surviving the Golden Age is excited to premiere their new single “Tragic City.” For those who have not read up on On High, the track may be surprising. It starts with a jazzy instrumental that sounds like it could come from Common‘s Be. When the vocals kick in, they are definitely not Common. It is the voice of Kareem Bunton who you may know from his role as Bo Diddley on HBO’s Vinyl. His booming voice sounds almost professorial; his lyrics poetic and painterly. Just as you get used to his voice, Konstance Patton is added to the mix. Her Roberta Flack-like power gives the track a soulful female voice doubling Bunton’s. “Tragic City” is a unique combination of spoken word, jazz, soul, and rock, making On High a band impossible pigeonhole.
Summertime–and the heat that comes along with it–brings a spontaneous need to chill and listen to something less “aggressive,” but still rocking an alternative vibe. Enter Labyrinth Lounge! The Brooklyn-based band is set to release its debut Porgy LP on NYC-based label Rufftone Records in early September. Labyrinth Lounge offers a combination of complexity and chilled vibes in a way that actually approaches the groove of Neneh Cherry or the Brand New Heavies tribe!
Porgy may seem to be a chill-out Manhattan cocktail record, but it’s underscored by a huge sense of groove and there’s a hint of a story behind that: John Ormond (bass) and Jaz Sawyer (drums) used to comprise the rhythm section for the late Abbey Lincoln’s band, bringing said groove with them, and certifying it on the Porgy LP. The duo eventually teamed up with jazzy modern freestyler Emanuel Ruffler on keyboards and Ambessa Cantave as emcee, resulting an original mix of hip hop, soul, and spoken word, graced by Valerie Troutt’s vocal persona.
Troutt is an established musical, activist and artist playing a highly effective role in the cultural and creative community (Oakland Public Conservatory, Museum of African Diaspora, music director to Embodiment Project, etc).
All of this is quite enough to better understand how suitable the name Labyrinth Lounge actually is for them! The first single, Trouble Won’t Last, offers a balance of classic, modernity, free jazz (in the soul) and urban pop. They fabulously produce a seamless symbiosis in this track while conveying a great deal of soul–not an easy job to pull off. Looking forward to hearing the rest of the album.
Check out the new video for the lead track, produced by Townfuturist Media and directed by Korise Jubert. It features members of Mooncandy LiveHouse Ensemble as well as Labyrinth Lounge.
In this day in age, with the immediate availability of cheap flights and ubiquity of the internet, it’s becoming more and more common to see musical groups form over long distances. Today The Big Takeover brings you the premiere of “Trouble Won’t Last” by Labyrinth Lounge, one band who is not letting a few thousand miles stand in the way of making and performing great music.
Labyrinth Lounge was conceived and launched in the late ’90s in New York and re-assembled in the Bay Area in 2016. Purveyors of soul and jazz with a vigorous spirit of social activism, they are currently comprised of Valerie Troutt (vocals), Ambessa “the Articulate” Cantave (rap vocals), Emanuel Ruffler (keyboards), John Ormond (bass), and Jaz Sawyer (drums).
This is the first single from their forthcoming debut album, called Porgy, to be released via New York’s Rufftone Records.
““Trouble Won’t Last” is a funky soulful laid back approach to Trump’s America. It’s what our grandmothers said when life gave them lemons. It’s a reminder to keep pushing against all odds until you see the outcome you desire,” says vocalist Valerie Troutt.
Despite the fact that this is the group’s debut album under this name, the project has a long-running history, carried in the bass and drums of John Ormond and Jaz Sawyer, who are best known as the rhythm section for the late Abbey Lincoln, one of the most outspoken among the great jazz divas, a long-term messenger of black consciousness and political activism in the jazz world. Ormond and Sawyer now carry on this tradition within the framework of today’s sounds, including hip-hop, rock, neo-soul, and spoken word poetry.
In the late 1990s, involvement with vocalist Valerie Troutt, Emanuel Ruffler on keyboards, and Ambessa “the Articulate” Cantave has resulted in a unique and hopeful fusion of genres, including jazz, R&B, soul and, experimental music, which they’ve touted throughout clubs and lounges in lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, and New Jersey.
The project revived in summer 2016 with the original line-up, but based in East Bay, where Valerie Troutt had since established herself as more than an artist, becoming a leader in the area’s famed creative community. After performing at Oakland’s Studio Grand the band members secluded themselves in California’s Bird and Egg Studio the following day, recording six new tracks.
“The inspiration was confronting problems, how to overcome them. I thought of a few dilemmas I was going through at the time and freestyled about the feelings I had,” explains Ambessa Cantave.
In autumn 2017, Labyrinth Lounge should bring a series of live performances to LA and the San Francisco Bay Area. The band’s full debut album is scheduled to release in early September via Rufftone Records, a fast-growing New York City label focused on producing genre-defying music. Their latest releases include the piano-drum duo Paintingand the debut album from Brooklyn jazz-core outfit A Tree Grows, featuring Tivon Pennicott, whose music we introduced you to earlier here
The single is set to drop on July 21 via all the regular online music stores and streaming platforms, but until then, keep your eye on this playlist, which will build as the label adds track after track.