BLUES for 2020

Having moved back to his native Oakland in 2016, Ambrose Akinmusire found himself in a relatively ideal position to weather a quarantine. Speaking over the phone this summer during the height of the COVID pandemic, the trumpeter and composer described an urban oasis: fruit trees, a spice and vegetable garden, and a meditative respite from the cramped and hectic life he’d left behind in New York City. He’d already opted for a solitary lifestyle with his family before one was imposed on him.

“There’s something about living in the Bay Area that prepared me for this a little more than New York would have,” Akinmusire noted. “I’ve been trying to get to a point where I’m completely self-sufficient in everything I do—musically, but also as a human. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to slaughtering my animals, but I am growing my own food.”

“Why do these notes sound like this? It’s just the same 12 notes, but I really do think the environment shapes them.”

Career-wise, that self-sufficiency entails taking ever greater control of how his music is presented. One of Akinmusire’s current passions is visual art. Although he insists his efforts have yet to reach a point where he’d be comfortable showing them to the public, he envisions a day when he’ll be able to create every aspect of his album packaging, from cover art to videos.

In all these endeavors, from food-growing to art-making, you can see two aspects of Akinmusire’s personality that have been strongly in evidence almost from the moment he emerged as the winner of the 2007 Thelonious Monk

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