Khris Royal & Dark Matter
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Khris Royal & Dark Matter

New Orleans, Louisiana, United States | SELF

New Orleans, Louisiana, United States | SELF
Band Jazz Funk

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Dec
04
Khris Royal & Dark Matter @ Sullivan Hall

New York, New York, USA

New York, New York, USA

Dec
03
Khris Royal & Dark Matter @ Sullivan Hall

New York, New York, USA

New York, New York, USA

Nov
27
Khris Royal & Dark Matter @ Maple Leaf Bar

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

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"The best thing about the French Quarter Festival is that it's free and it's always full of people who love music," Khris Royal says. The 23-year-old saxophonist has played the event ( April 9__-11) many times starting at age eight when he was blowing his horn with the McDonogh 15 school band. This year marks the first time that Royal will perform as leader, heading his modern jazz quartet at Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse (Saturday, 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.). The versatile artist will also be digging in on more jazz and bossa nova with vocalist Sasha Masakowski, getting down with the organ/funk/jazz band Groove_sect and hitting on showcase of New Orleans music with trombonist Glen David Andrews.

When the French Quarter Festival began 27 years ago, the prominent sound was traditional jazz played on stages that lined Bourbon Street and a variety of styles, including big bands, heard in Jackson Square. While the event has grown enormously spreading out from Woldenberg Park to the U.S. Mint and now celebrating zydeco, Cajun, Latin, classical, funk, rock and more, until recently modern jazz hadn't enjoyed much of a presence. That makes Royal's appearance and other modern players - saxophone monster Ed Petersen, the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Astral Project and Sasha and Steve Masakowski - significant and appropriate in the birthplace of jazz.

Jazz in New Orleans exists as a continuum with the traditional, bebop, hard bop and avant-garde styles living side by side as well as constantly evolving. Many musicians live in various realms. They move naturally between expressive forms more than in any locales around the world. At the festival, a bit of the history of modern jazz in this city will be revisited as premier jazz vocalist Germaine Bazzle and pianist David Torkanowsky look back to the days of Claiborne Avenue's Mason's VIP Lounge where artists like saxophonist Alvin "Red" Tyler and so many others had the opportunity to express their improvisational souls. That place grooved.

With his quartet, Royal feels it is important to reach out to his peers and extend jazz so that it might touch a more youthful audience with its energy and importance. On his jazz sets, which include original material, he incorporates up-to-date influences just as jazz musicians have always done.

"We like to swing out," he says, "but I also like to take standards and rearrange them and try to make them more modern and accessible to young people. We'll take a song like 'Swinging at the Haven' and put a New Orleans bounce beat to it and swing on the bridge."

Playing in many different styles came naturally to Royal, a native New Orleanian whose house was full of a variety of music from trumpeters like Miles Davis and Louis Armstrong to the funky sounds of Sly Stone and Earth, Wind & Fire.

"To me, it's just about what you put on your ear - what you listen to," he explains. "All music is the same, it's how you interact with the rhythms - and harmony is harmony. It's all one thing."

Royal became inspired to play music early in life, mainly through the influence of a cousin who played trombone in marching bands and organ in church. He originally wanted to play trombone but was told when he was seven years old that his arms were too short. It was his mother who suggested the saxophone, telling her young son that "girls like saxophones." He remembers thinking that was okay. "I just wanted to play music," he says.

Royal credits his attendance at McDonogh 15 for giving him a solid musical background and importantly, he learned how to read music while a student at the French Quarter School. He attended McMain High School and the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts (NOCCA) where his classmates included Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, trumpeter Christian Scott, trombonist Sam "Big Sam" Williams and pianist Jonathan Batiste. "It was a really cool class," exclaims Royal, who graduated from NOCCA in 2004.

The saxophonist received a full scholarship to attend the Berklee School of Music and following graduation, he headed to Los Angeles. While Royal gained a lot of experience in L.A.'s recording studios - he's heard blowing in the horn section behind artists including Mary J. Blige and Sade - he found that the live music scene didn't measure up to his hometown.

"It was totally different than what I'm doing now," he says. "I was a studio cat. I missed playing - there was nowhere to go out and play any kind of improvisational music."

In 2008, Royal returned to New Orleans and jumped right into the club scene and continues to be a presence all over town.

New Orleans musicians have always had to be versatile to make a living and many truly enjoy the diversity. Royal is definitely in that number. Sunday mornings he carries his horn to various churches and then that night he heads to the Spotted Cat to play straight ahead jazz and funk with bassist Jack Casey. Wednesday nights he leads his own funk unit, Khris Royal & Dark Matter, blowing mostly original material. "When we do play a cover, we kinda freak it," he explains. He's heard once or twice a month at Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse leading his jazz quartet that's made up of his like-minded peers working on self-penned tunes and compositions from the likes of saxophonist Kenny Garrett and trumpeter Roy Hargrove. "We do some jazz material that people don't play around here much," he explains. Royal is also a regular in trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis' Uptown Orchestra.

Khris Royal's four French Quarter Festival gigs celebrate his diversity and that of the festival especially now that New Orleans modern jazz enjoys its rightful place in the wonderful mix.

This article was originally published in the March 5, 2010 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper - The Louisiana Weekly


Khris Royal and Dark Matter defy gravity. As a musician, Khris is a meteorite, a shooting saxophone star that sparkles through an already-bright musically starlit night scene. Khris does not play with Dark Matter so much as continuously re-conceptualize the profound funky groove that Dark Matter formulates ex nihilo. Dark Matter, Khris’s regular band, lays down that groove like they're supplying rocket fuel to a jet engine. That jet engine comes in the form of the meteoric talent of Khris and the individual Dark Matter musicians. Together, the group’s music propels people to listen closely for the complex harmony, feel the rhythm rattle their bones as deep as their souls, and get up on their feet to dance.

...Houston, we have liftoff.

Dark Matter features Groovesect's Danny Abel on Guitar, DJ Raymond on Bass, Alvin Ford on the Drumset, and Kyle Roussell’s unique rhythmic punctuations on Keyboard. It’s not unusual for New Orleans musicians to play in each others’ bands, but the collection of musicians in Dark Matter accents the heavy funk-rock style of the band's music. Danny Abel plays an inimitable effervescent blues-tinged guitar, at once straightforward, refined, and subtle. Just like Danny’s intelligently untroublesome guitar, DJ Raymond’s bass is both comfortable and profoundly musical. Kyle Roussell sometimes plays up to three keyboards simultaneously, but his musical ability is best reflected in the complex rhythmic variations that illuminate the groove without burying the funk. Alvin Ford drums perhaps like a surgeon might operate—without compromising the beat, Alvin carefully manipulates the environment to create rhythmic effects that cut right down to the straight funk. It does not take any effort on the listener’s part to appreciate, but perhaps it takes a trained ear to understand how the music’s subtleties combine to form these true New Orleans inspired funk jams.

Dark Matter performs many original tunes, including: "Ain’t Saying Nothing," "Foley," and "Whyuwanna." Complementing the originals, Dark Matter seamlessly integrates pop tunes into the funk. Everyone in the crowd knows the melodies, but the reinvention is complete as KRDM infuse the original tunes with a character that is all their own. And in their usual gravity-defying style, the energy does not cease going up. To hear them live is an experience like none other. The urge to dance is practically overwhelming, and the draw to the sound is perhaps more powerful than the group’s namesake — Dark Matter. - www.musicfromlastnight.com


...In true "only in New Orleans" fashion, long after the band had left the stage there were still 25 or so fans hanging around the Nile. As Jill Scott's "Is it the Way" pumped through the PA, one by one the musicians returned to the stage, first Hall on bass with Krasno soon taking it from him. Hall shifted to keys as Deitch got behind the kit, and they moved from playing along to the record to some live improv. An elongated vamp morphed to a full-band version of Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man," a boundless crunk-a-thon with seven different musicians rotating around the stage, including sax and keys maven Khris Royal, guitarist Andrew Block and local sax man Clarence "Trixzey" Slaughter. The half-hour workout was NOLA indulgence, almost a private show for the Royal Family Frenchman Street faithful.... - Jambase.com - B. Getz


Only in New Orleans.

George Porter Jr. :: 01.28 :: New Orleans, LA
You've probably heard that expression before. Think back. Was it during Jazz Fest, Mardi Gras, maybe French Quarter Fest? I'm going to change that to, "All the time in New Orleans." In these economically challenging days, you can pick a long weekend, pay a lot less, and still have many "only in New Orleans" moments. That's what I did January 28 through February 2, 2010. Taking advantage of lower hotel rates and airfares during this "off" season before Mardi Gras, I arrived at the Dauphine Orleans in the French Quarter, hit the Redfish Grill for some great gumbo (no reservation needed), then headed to the world famous Maple Leaf to see the George Porter Jr. Trio. This weekly show stars the former Meter man with a revolving cast of guests. This night it was sax player Khris Royal and young gun guitar player Dan Abel, both from the New Orleans funk band Groovesect, and drummer Terrence Houston. To see Porter in this intimate environment allowed lucky patrons to get right up close to absorb the funky bass lines of this American treasure.... - Jambase.com - Robert Pollock


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

Khris Royal & Dark Matter are a young alternative jazz band on the forefront of the New Orleans music scene. KRDM are poised to make an impact on the scene both locally and nationally. The band is fearlessly led by dynamic saxophonist Khris Royal, who has shared the stage with Erykah Badu, Lettuce, George Porter, “Big Sam” Williams, and many more.

To create their signature sound, Khris Royal employs the electric sounds of Groovesect's Danny Abel on Guitar, DJ Raymond on Bass, the stylistic harmonies of Kyle Roussell on keys and the energetic drumming of Terrence Houston. This innovative group of New Orleans natives breathes fresh air into New Orleans. Khris Royal & Dark Matter’s Space-Funk Jazz-fusion is outta sight and sure to keep you guessing and begging for more. Khris Royal & Dark Matter turns heads, demands attention and invites you to check them out during their residency at the Blue Nile, on Frenchmen Street in New Orleans.

Khris Royal Biography:
Khris Royal was born to be a musician. This exceptional New Orleans native began playing the saxophone at seven years old, and producing and writing music at fourteen. Royal‘s musical talents were nurtured at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts (NOCCA) High School, in classrooms once shared by jazz greats such as Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, and Donald Harrison. At the young age of sixteen, Royal was granted a full scholarship to the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA.

To date, Royal has played with Bobby Brown, Erykah Badu, Alvin Batiste, Ellis Marsalis, Christian Scott, Branford, Delfeayo and Jason Marsalis, Tony Clifton, The Sam Kininger Band, and Johnta Austin. The impressive young artist has recorded with Mary J. Blige, Ashanti, Nelly and The Game, Erykah Badu, Goapele, D.J. Quick, Ciff Hines, and is also featured with the Regiment on Season 2 of The Boondocks.

Royal has also made a name for himself within the New Orleans music scene, playing regularly with renowned local musicians including George Porter Jr., Zigaboo Modeliste, Fred Wesley, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Troy Andrews, Soul Rebels Brass Band, Glen David Andrews, Russell Batiste, The Wild Magnolias, Maurice Brown, Herlin Riley and Good Enough for Good Times among others. In addition to leading his own band, Khris Royal & Dark Matter, Royal is the only horn player currently on tour with the legendary George Porter Jr. and his Runnin’ Pardners.

Royal’s progressive-jazz outfit, Khris Royal & Dark Matter, is able to sonically break new ground by infusing the distinct flavor of New Orleans funk with intricate and sophisticated jazz lines.