Taylor McFerrin spent the better part of the last fourteen years in New York City, playing solo gigs and three-piece sets with his old band RAHJ, honing his incredible breadth of musical talent, waiting ardently for his big break. Last night, at the recently opened Bushwick venue Lot 45, McFerrin celebrated his album release party for the much-delayed full-length debut Early Riser (Brainfeeder), in conjunction with the newest instalment of the Red Bull Sound Select series.
Opening the night was rookie singer-songwriter Mizan, who made one of her first live appearances. Her music was sparse and clean, open and exposed. Lulling piano chords and tepid bass guitar thumps accompanied “No Fool,” Mizan‘s wispy vocals often dipping towards the sharper reaches of her range. She faltered a few times–a finger slipped for a sour chord and her falsetto sometimes missed its mark– but for the most part Mizan showcased an undeniably compelling and restrained offshoot of experimental R&B.
New York-native Gabriel Garzón-Montano, the musician, producer, and singer-songwriter behind his solo project of the same name, followed Mizan as the second opening act. Performing five tracks from last year’s debut EP Bishouné: Alma del Huila (Styles Upon Styles) stripped of electric and bass guitar parts present on the record, like the riveting soul explosion of “Pour Maman,” with Montano on keys and a guest musician on drums. The two navigated through the set communicating with raised eyebrows and head nods, effortlessly settling on the same smooth-but-angular groove. The duo, as with Mizan prior, experienced lots of sound issues, including washy feedback from the snare drum amplifier. A few songs in, though, Montano had worked out the kinks and was at the top of his game, crooning over hapless and voodooed neo soul breakbeats on the pedantic and tender “6 8.” It was short, fast and left you wanting more.
The DJ, producer, beatboxer, vocalist and electronic musician Taylor McFerrin had the ability, and initial intentions, to produce every song, play every instrument and lay down every vocal on the album himself. But such was not the way this album manifested. Instead, Taylor McFerrin and his tedious efforts on Early Riser yielded spectacular guest performances from Nai Palm of Hiatus Kiayote, RYAT, Robert Glasper, Thundercat, Emily King and his father, the beloved Bobby McFerrin. For McFerrin’s album release party, though, invited artists who did not appear on the album, like old bandmates Brockett Parsons and Rahj and the lead of the Fela! Broadway musical Sahr Nguajah. Emily King made an appearance as well; nearly starting her first verse too soon, but she and McFerrin laughed it off. The crowd was more than receptive to the guest, who McFerrin hailed as “one of the best singers in New York right now,” joining in on the chorus with King‘s husky melisma of “oooo”‘s and “aaaa”‘s.
The spectacle at last night’s Red Bull Sound Select, curated by Giant Step, was surely McFerrin himself. He opened the set alone, performing an inundated, chopped and screwed version of “Invisible/Visible,” the song he collaborated with Papa McFerrin and Cesar Camargo Mariano for Early Riser. Following the number, McFerrin announced he was going to bust into some a capella material, what must have been ten-minutes worth of hyper-technical, mind-melting, rhythmically determined beatboxing—no loops or reverb or fancy toys. Homeboy played a miniature DJ set entirely with his mouth. Next, McFerrin casually said, “I’m gonna make from scratch for y’all,” which had the seasoned young artist strenuously dispensing a disparate range of genres and textures—from reggaeton to trap to introversive jazz-funk fusion. Those first few songs had Taylor McFerrin gaping at the audience of close friends and earnest fans, glassy-eyed and smirking, with an almost disbelieving expression on his face. The wait was finally over.
Photos by Angel E. Fraden