Jeremy Danneman was born and raised in Newark, Delaware where he began playing musical instruments at an early age. Like most people deluded into pursuing a career in music, his talents were recognized at an early age. He was given the honor of playing in Delaware All-State Band and Governor’s School for Excellence in Music, and thus was encouraged to pursue the fruitless, respectless path to which he still stubbornly clings, to this day. Danneman’s career may have peaked during his childhood in Delaware, but like a compulsive gambler he has spent the rest of his career trying to recreate that beginner’s luck.
And so it was in 1998 that Danneman relocated to New York City to pursue a career as a saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer, and it’s been all downhill from there. Over the years, he has been fired from bands for all kinds of reasons, including but not limited to: a mysterious odor, playing too loudly, lacking taste, playing out of tune, lacking rhythm, having no style, being poorly dressed, and just plain sucking.
If it matters, there have also been some career highlights, though they have been very sparse in the immense sea of failures and shortcomings. To name a few: In 2009, Danneman had a birthday parade instead of a party. It was an 11 hour march throughout New York City, including Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan. This experience inspired him to launch the Parade of One project, in which he has given street performances in Rwanda to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the genocide there, and subsequently in Cambodia and Vietnam, where he met the only person enough of a sucker to become his wife while he was playing saxophone in a park.
Danneman has applied for loads of grants and fellowships. At first, every single application was denied, so he hired a real professional to research and write the applications for him, and he miraculously still maintained his 100% rejection rate. Finally, the Puffin Foundation awarded him a grant to produce his upcoming album Honey Wine. It was probably a clerical mistake on the part of the foundation, but there’s no way he’s giving them the money back.
Danneman has three albums as a leader out on Ropeadope Records and has performed at fine New York City venues such as the Blue Note, Roulette, the Stone, Theater for the New City, the United Nations Church Center, Zebulon, and Nublu. He has performed internationally in Tokyo, Berlin, Rwanda, Zanzibar, Dominican Republic, Cambodia, and Vietnam. He has contributed to recordings by the Mysterium Electric Soundpainting Septet, the New York Soundpainting Orchestra, El Pueblo, Ulysses, Love Camp Seven and more. Notable musical collaborators include William Parker, Tim Keiper, Anders Nilsson, Sophie Nzayisenga, Arn Chorn-Pond, Brad Farberman and many others. He has recently shared the stage with Mike Clark, the drummer from Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters and the indie-rock sensation 75 Dollar Bill.
Danneman has also composed and produced music for multiple films, including Rwanda 15 directed by Kivu Ruhorahoza, which documents Danneman’s street performances in 2009 in Rwanda and has screened on three continents, including its world premier at the 2010 Zanzibar International Film Fest and then in New York at the 2011 Vision Fest. As an educator, Danneman has given guest lectures for the Ramaz High School (Manhattan), The Royal University of Fine Arts (Cambodia), the faculty of Baltimore County Community College, and more. He is currently a teaching artist for Midori and Friends. Danneman holds a BA in British and American Literature from New York University.
march 10, 2017
Honey Wine is the first of two albums, years in the making, featuring special guest Sophie Nzayisenga. Sophie is a vocalist and the only professional female inanga player in the world. The inanga is a ten string zither-like instrument so rare there isn’t even a wikipedia page for it. We are also joined by legendary jazz bassist and multi-instrumentalist William Parker and percussionist Tim Keiper who has toured internationally with Vieux Farka Toure, Cyro Baptista, Matisyahu, and many others.
I first met Sophie when I went to Rwanda in 2009 to give street performances in commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the Genocide against the Tutsi. I had for years been fascinated by this rare instrument after hearing it on a CD from the Nonesuch Explorer Series called Burundi: Music from the Heart of Africa (where inanga is also widespread.) As I was planning my trip, I became aware that inanga is the national instrument of Rwanda and voiced my interest in finding an inanga player to collaborate with there, so some friends introduced me to Sophie who at the time didn’t speak a word of English. During that trip we performed together at the Goethe Institute of Kigali.
Soon began a four year quest to bring Sophie to New York City to perform and record with my band here. The first obstacle was funding, which was done through Indiegogo and eventually a grant from the Puffin Foundation. A more troubling and unusual hindrance was the USA immigration bureaucracy. My first attempt to bring Sophie to New York City failed when the State Department denied her a visa in 2013, after I’d already invested considerable personal resources in the project. In 2015, with intervention from the Rwandan government, the State Department finally authorized Sophie to travel to and from the USA.
Some of the songs on Honey Wine are fully improvised such as the title track. Ibeseke is a song of Sophie’s, and the rest are compositions I assembled by studying the rhythmic patterns of classic inanga masters such as Joseph Sebatunzi and assimilating Western and other scales to the pentatonic inanga patterns.