Posted by: Keith Witty
(mastering day is one of the great joys of music making)
The second record by THIEFS is well underway and moving towards completion, exploring questions of what it means to be from a place, to be a stranger in a place, to be perceived as a stranger...
While our first record featured the core trio of saxophonist Christophe Panzani, double bassist Keith Witty and drummer/vocalist Guillermo E. Brown (all doubling on electronics at times), the new record expands the band's line-up to include pianist Aaron Parks, American poet/mc Mike Ladd, and a French language counterpoint in Gael Faye. The drum chair was passed on to David Frazier Jr.
We approached new pieces in preparation for this project as open studies on a variety of ideas: Anxiety/angst resulting from social inequity, the common life-blood running through all humankind, one's hyper-awareness about being foreign, the intimacy of our first experiences with the natural world and the estrangement we can feel having left that specific nature behind.
We chose to work with words in 2 languages for this project so as to explore all subject matter in intrinsic juxtaposition - that of experience, tone, rhythm, vocabulary, culture. Each poet was given the song topics in loose terms with little direction and no restrictions. Their abstractions and interpretations are most welcome, as each poet is deeply familiar with the questions being asked: Faye comes from Belgian and Rwandan parents, was raised mostly in France, and was living primarily in Rwanda for the first time since his early childhood at the time of these recordings; Ladd was born to American parents of African and European descent and currently lives in Paris with his family.
The 4 musicians on these recordings converge with jazz backgrounds and heavy impulses towards beat-based music, electronics, and rhythmic innovation. Yet the complexity of our ideas and sonic structures are failures to us if they sound overly complex to our listeners. On this record, we aim to provide a layered fabric for the poets to cloak themselves in, breaking out at times into melody or improvisation.
With this new project we plan to build on the success of our first record, furthering the development of a loyal audience and our profile on the international jazz and electronic music scenes. Upon completion, Up/Rooted will be released and toured in the US and the EU in October and November, revisiting East Coast venues such as Joe's Pub in NYC, the Strathmore in DC, Mayne Stage in Chicago and the Rochester Jazz Festival, and pushing to expand our circuit to venues on the West Coast. We consistently try to arrange youth workshops/masterclasses in correlation with our performances as our sound, message, and joyful approach to music-making resonates with kids and extends the personal impact of our endeavors immeasurably.
12/13/2015 - 11/19/2016
New York, New York
Last Updated June 15, 2017
New York, New York
A native of New York City, bassist Keith Witty has straddled the worlds of Hip-Hop, popular music forms, and Jazz’s Avante Garde in his young career. In 2000, before graduating from Wesleyan University, he made his recording debut with the Anthony Braxton Quartet. Work soon followed in the bands of drummer/producer Guillermo E. Brown, which...
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Bronx, New York
Role: Composer, Saxophonist