Today, bassist, composer, and bandleader Joshua Crumbly released the music video for his song “Afria,” taken from his debut full-length Rise (out now via Open Book Records). The video was directed and edited by Alan Be, and filmed by Drew Robinson. So far, Rise has been praised by Hypebeast, Indieshuffle, Jazziz, WBGO, Earmilk, No Treble, Exclaim!, Glide, The FADER, and Ones to Watch, who praised Afria’s “waking melody over a rhythm that warms the listener, alerting you all that is undone, unsaid with visually and musically.” Crumbly has recorded and toured with a staggering list of genre-blurring artists including Kamasi Washington, Lizz Wright, Stefon Harris, Ravi Coltrane, Anthony Wilson, Terence Blanchard, and Leon Bridges — the music on Rise manages to draw inspiration from all of those artists, melding into an uncategorizable but eminently inviting sound.
“I was on tour in Japan a few years ago and went to a couple music stores in the city of Kyoto, and found an Mbira in one of them, which is an African instrument — ‘Afria’ is sort of built on the ostinato I played on the Mbira,” Crumbly told Ones to Watch. “When it came time to naming the song, I thought about how ironic it was finding an African instrument in Asia and it clicked to name it ‘Afria,’ which is also a homage to my mixed heritage of African-American and Indian.”
As daunting as it may seem to describe the multi-faceted career of Joshua Crumbly in one word, you couldn’t do any better than Rise. Making his professional debut at age 10 alongside his saxophonist father, Crumbly was mentored from a young age by such iconic bassists as Reggie Hamilton (Whitney Houston, Seal), Al McKibbon (Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins) and Victor Bailey (Weather Report). Crumbly then went on to study at the prestigious Juilliard School, and by the end of his freshman year he’d been recruited to join trumpet great Terence Blanchard’s band to record Blanchard’s acclaimed album Magnetic. “My goal is to write songs that can be performed at rock festivals or jazz clubs or concert halls,” Crumbly insists. “I come from a very diverse musical background and believe that this album has something for everyone.”
Unlike many debut recordings that strive to pack a lifetime’s worth of ideas into a handful of tunes, Rise is refreshingly open, allowing every member of the rotating cast of collaborators to add their own voice. At the same time it maintains a singular soundworld, evincing a vision confident and singular enough to leave room for spontaneous expression.
“I wanted the music to have as many opportunities for everyone to sort of musically paint and communally express together,” Crumbly continues. “I’ll share with everyone what each song is about for me, but of course they can relate to it in their own way. Many of the songs are drawn from a specific experience that I've had, but I don't wish to impose that interpretation on anyone else.” For inspiration, Crumbly looked inward, leading to a reflective and intimate-feeling album that bears the traces of lost loved ones, personal struggle, and elevating to a more hopeful place.