Photo MANNY CANSECO
Having already built up a cult LA following at a Piano Bar residency and performances alongside the acclaimed West Coast Get Down collective, Natasha Agrama has finally wrapped her first proper LP. Due out September 8th through Alpha Pup and World Galaxy, The Heart of Infinite Change includes left-field renditions of everyone from Duke Ellington to Bilal, and features such esteemed players (and in several cases, Grammy winners) as Thundercat, Tony Austin, Vinnie Colaiuta, Mitchell Long, Ruslan Sirota, Ronald Bruner Jr., Doug Webb, and the dearly missed pianist Austin Peralta.
“This album is a work of fate,” explains Agrama. “What started out as a debut foray into recording for a budding jazz singer become a historical documentation of final collaborations between legends who were also great friends, including the final recorded collaboration between the late great George Duke and his best friend Stanley Clarke, who produced the record.”
Clarke also happens to be Agrama’s stepfather, a longtime mentor in the studio and onstage.
“I am so extremely grateful for him,” says Agrama, “and love him beyond words for the force of strength and solidity that he has been for me through this whole process and over the years. He has given me a piece of his world.”
While that may be true, Agrama puts her own personal stamp on every track she touches, starting with the smoke-trailed single below: a laid-back and lithe rendition of Charles Mingus’s Lester Young tribute “Goodbye Porkpie Hat.”
“Years later, the song was reimagined with lyrics by Joni Mitchell in the last collaboration of Mingus’ life,” explains Agrama. “My rendition ended up being a tribute of my own, as it was to be the final recording session of piano virtuoso, pivotal road paver, and my personal hero—Austin Peralta—and it was the last collaboration between him and his best friend Thundercat. I added my own lyric to the melody, outlining the importance of knowing our history to move into the promised land of equality, and how this history is embedded in the melodies of the music of our people, the freedom people, the true artists.”
Have a listen here, and look out for Agrama’s latest performance at LA’s The Baked Potato club on August 1st….
The Heart of Infinite Change
(World Galaxy / Alpha Pup, September 8th)
1. Black Narcissus
2. Goodbye Porkpie Hat
3. In a Sentimental Mood
4. All Matter
5. I Wonder What Became of Me
7. The Ballad of the Sad Young Men