Tyrone Birkett | Emancipation
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Tyrone Birkett | Emancipation

New York City, New York, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Jazz Soul




"Brenda Nelson-Strauss"

Saxophonist Tyrone Birkett, a veteran performer with roots in the sanctuaries of the black church and ‘70s soul-jazz, presents his concept of the postmodern spiritual—a retelling of the Negro freedom song for contemporary audiences featuring his band Emancipation. Inspired by musicians ranging from John Coltrane and Miles Davis to Hall Johnson, Mahalia Jackson and Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, Birkett creates an innovative collage—complex in its execution yet readily accessible. The soulful vocals of Paula Ralph-Birkett unify the eight tracks as they programmatically trace African American history. Setting the stage is the epic eight-minute opening track, “The Departure,” followed by “The Struggle,” together representing a declaration of freedom and the push to overcome obstacles. Both share similar melodic themes and were drawn from Birkett’s longer composition, “The Seven Star Suite” (a third song from the suite, “Freedom Dreaming” is also included). The title track, “The Postmodern Spiritual,” is a song “to help us stand up tall when our backs are against the wall” and employs spoken poetry in the mid-section, conveying Birkett’s concept of “freedom music for the 21st century” combining “the fervor of the spiritual and freedom of improvisation.” On “Motherless Child (Revisited),” Paula stretches her significant vocal range as the spiritual morphs from a slow dirge to a funk driven celebration signaling the transformation from despair to hope. Other highlights include “Deep River,” an instrumental version inspired by the great composer/arranger Moses Hogan, and the contemplative closing song “The Promise,” which Birkett describes as God’s answer to requests for strength, a way to freedom, and justice. Though Birkett may not be a familiar name in jazz circles, this album is highly recommended for its excellent musicianship, creative compositions, and thematic material. This is soul-jazz, gospel-jazz, and contemporary jazz in a harmonious bounty of spirituality and empowerment. Brenda Nelson-Strauss - - Black Grooves - Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.


Over a period of eight years Birkett's work has matured and he has developed a unique style. This cohesive and delightful disc is a testament of that evolution. ...Post Modern Spirituals: The Promised Land is a stimulating and sincere expression of superb musicianship and deep passion. - All About Jazz

"Mark S. Tucker"

When sax player Tyrone Birkett tells you he gathers his influences wherever he may find them, he isn't kidding around. Postmodern Spirituals: The Promised Land is a CD chockful of everyone he mentions and a good deal more besides: Miles, Quincy, Coltrane, Weather Report (Wayne Shorter), Mike Brecker, gospel, soul, and so on but also Lonnie Liston Smith (Birkett plays keyboards as well and arranges everything here), Sonny Stitt, Dewey Redman, stage opuses, and more besides. In fact, Postmodern sounds like it was meant to be a very hip combo of concert and theatrical presentation. The center point, though, is the proliferation of Birkett's superb soloing, flights that take you beyond borders. - Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange

"Jack Goodstein"

From the opening drum roll of the first of the nouveau spirituals, “The Departure,” it is clear that the listener is in for something out of the ordinary. Birkett’s work on the sax has just enough nuanced soundscape to justify both the term postmodern and his description of the horn as sounding “a clarion call.” Paula Birkett’s vocal is revelatory. She has a voice rich and powerful, and she demonstrates her ownership of the material every time she opens her mouth.
Postmodern Spirituals: The Promised Land is a concept album with a purpose, an album with something to say. It says it with some of the most dynamic musical you are likely to hear from any jazz ensemble around. - Blogcritics.com

"Chris Spector"

For all our talk about civil rights jazz and church basement jazz, here's a cat that's taken up the call to arms with modern church basement jazz updating the concepts of freedom songs and Negro spirituals for today. A jazz vet of styles and times, sax man Birkett colors wildly outside the lines for a unique jazz set that keeps you guessing as to what's coming next… Hard hitting stuff that doesn't need Western Union to send it's message. - Midwest Record

"Dick Metcalf"

A rather long title for a CD that may be one of the best “sleepers” for 2014 (it was released on 25 March)… as you listen to pieces like the excellent “Freedom Dreaming“, ;you’ll realize you’re in the presence of soul genius (Paula Ralph Birkett’s vocals on this one are priceless & full of raw power)!  It was the fantastic & funky opener, “The Departure“, that captured my ear (for every second of it’s 8:20 length)… Tyrone’s reeds on this one are nothing short of amazing & will embed in your mind relentlessly for the next several years!  I give the whole crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  - Improvijazzation Nation

"Glenn Astarita"

Ultimately, Tyrone Birkett’s upbeat mode of operations proclaims inspiration from many of the jazz world’s great saxophonists…  Here the artist sends a heartening perspective spanning soul, funk and jazz. - jazzreview.com


Postmodern Spirituals: The Promised Land - 2014

In The Fullness Of Time - 2007




Tyrone Birkett is a saxophonist, composer and producer. He has created "Postmodern Spirituals" an innovative concept re-imagining and reviving the Negro spiritual through jazz, soul and black church music; what he calls "freedom music for the 21st century". The goal is providing curative and empowering music in troubling times. His current recording with his group Tyrone Birkett | Emancipation titled "Postmodern Spirituals: The Promised Land is the first endeavor to showcase this concept under his newly formed record label, Araminta Music."I could hear the essence of the Negro spiritual prominently in John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme and I had heard the black church influences in the jazz of Horace Silver, Charles Mingus and others. So I took what was organic and natural to me Coltrane, jazz fusion, 70s soul music, black church music, the Spirituals and had them all converge naturally, without forcing the issue".

As a saxophonist, Tyrone Birkett has synthesized his mentorship by jazz saxophone greats Frank Foster and Budd Johnson, years toiling in black church sanctuaries and soul-jazz into a distinctive fusion. An "outsider artist" not common to the jazz scene, he has nonetheless developed a powerful lyrical sound with shades of post-Coltraneisms and an idiosyncratic but musical melodic sense. As conceptualist and composer, he has created Postmodern Spirituals, a retelling of the Negro freedom song.

Tyrone brought this music to venues including the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Schomburg Center for Black Culture, The Greene Space at WYNC, Lehman College Center for the Performing Arts, the U.N., Montreal Convention Centre, Bermuda and Europe. His work can also be heard in inner city schools, streets, and parks - anywhere where the music can affect the atmosphere of a community in a positive way.

In addition, Tyrone has performed on stages with a set of diverse luminaries incl. Frank Foster, Shirley Caesar and Al Green, and even with Little Richard when he came to Harlem during one of his gospel periods. He also made a contribution to the movie Proud starring renowned actor Ossie Davis in his last film performance and supported Nikki Giovanni in presentations of her book On My Journey Now: Looking at African-American History Through the Spirituals.

Touring is planned in support of the CD "Postmodern Spirituals: The Promised Land, and projects in development include music/dance collaborations Terrible Beauty, Tragic Beauty on lynching and reconciliation and Those Whose Backs Are AgainstThe Wall on the disinherited and disenfranchised in the U.S.

Tyrone lives in the Bronx with his wife Paula Ralph-Birkett, an aspiring singer/songwriter in her own right who is featured in his work.