Music That Inspired Nite Bjuti's Bold Debut Album
Over the course of the 11 songs on its self-titled debut, the avant-garde jazz trio Nite Bjuti covers a wild range of styles, themes, and cultural reference points. The entire album was improvised, and it features just two instrumentalists, both of whom are associate professors in the Ensemble Department—Mimi Jones on bass and Val Jeanty acting as a sonic wizard manipulating electronics, vocal samples, and Haitian inspired rhythms. Singer Candice Hoyes’s vocals soar to ethereal heights, dip down to haunting chant-like melodies, and also make use of spoken word poetry. Each musical element can stands on its own as a singular and daring, and when combined, the resulting album can seem as if it’s both drawn from a shadowy past and pulled from a bold future.
Take “Illustrious Negro Dead,” which, even from its evocative title, lays a deep and layered foundation for a song that wanders through grief, anger, and the hope of liberation. "If you like my idea, may I make a few suggestions to you?" Hoyes asks in a delivery that brings to mind the minimalist libretto from Einstein on the Beach by Philip Glass, but in the context of a Black woman asserting her power.
In the following playlist, curated by the group, the members plot out the inspirations behind Nite Bjuti. Take a listen and see below for what the trio has to say about their selections.
Nite Bjuti's members talk about how these songs inspired their performances. The first and last selections are songs off the Nite Bjuti album as a way to help set the group's work in context with its influences. Jeanty, who also is on staff in the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, speaks poetically about the "essence" that she picks up on in music that moves her. "By essence I mean flavor, spices and colors that influence our taste buds, or in this case influencing the ear palette," she says. See her comments below for the different essences she brought to her playing.
1. "Mood (Liberation Walk)," Nite Bjuti
2. "Transport Connection," Sister Nancy
Candice Hoyes: Sister Nancy is a muse because she is a truth-teller who is still blazing her own trail and inspires Jamaican artists and Caribbean women. I have learned to never pause for validation and the three of us are living that to the height on this album and on tour.
3. "Lush Life," Geri Allen
Val Jeanty: That spiritual and grounding essence.
4. "Slink," Lyle Mays
Mimi Jones: Lyle Mays's "Slink" happens to be one of my favorite bodies of music. Mays's attention to detail from a single tone or to the blend and sound of several instruments paired with his use of texture, dimension, and dynamics creates a recipe for powerful expression, from the most quiet intimacy to epic proportions of passion.
5. "Hell Is Around the Corner," Tricky*
Jeanty: That musical otherworldly essence.
*Note: Jeanty cites Tricky's whole album Maxinquaye as an inspiration. "Hell Is Around the Corner" is from this album.
6. "A.K.I.K.O.," Emeline Michel
Jeanty: That rich Afro Carribbean essence.
7. "Who Is He and What Is He to You," Meshell Ndegeocello
Jones: Meshell Ndegeocello's music and overall vibe is heavy, mysterious, and soulful. Her bass playing is authentic, like she ingested the original bass sounds of James Jamerson, Anthony Jackson, and other bass giants, and presented them in a modern package in a different space in time. Ndgeocello's unapologetic vibe inspired me to be myself even if it's not mainstream and to say what one has to say.
8. "No Surprises," Radiohead
Jeanty: That smooth but radically political essence.
9. "Batéy," Tania León
Hoyes: This is one of the first compositions by Tania Léon that I heard and loved instantly how she writes for the voice and infuses lyrical music with specific historical context of her Cuban childhood and this polyrhythmic groove indigenous to her Cuba. Léon has influenced my vocal writing and singing and I deeply love her style.