“Heritage is the idea of transmitting from the past to the future - knowing more about who we are and where we’re going by understanding where we come from. It’s about identity and one’s place in the world,” muses pianist and electronics wizard Mark de Clive-Lowe. For the half-Japanese half-New Zealander who calls Los Angeles home, his latest musical offering, Heritage, is a deeply personal exploration of his ancestry and cultural roots.
“I was raised bi-culturally and as time goes on, the more I appreciate how much I owe to my roots. Japan is my spiritual and ancestral home - the connection I feel there is so visceral and has shaped much of my life, largely without me even being fully aware of its influence. This music is me openly embracing and interpreting what Japan means, feels like and sounds like to me.
Leaning into the moods and textures of Japan’s folkloric mythology and culture in tandem with his already nuanced blend of jazz, live electronics and sampling, de Clive-Lowe takes us on a culture-rich journey through his own sonic imagination, seamlessly fusing genres and blurring the lines between technology and live musicianship.
De Clive-Lowe is somewhat of a musical chameleon - as comfortable on the grand piano in a jazz club as he is multi-tasking electronics and live beats for a dancefloor. Like his peers Kamasi Washington, Makaya McCraven and Robert Glasper, de Clive-Lowe isn’t content to simply play the jazz lane and he purposefully reaches across a broad palette of genres and influences to create something quite unlike anything else.
“I grew up on a mix of jazz, hip-hop and electronic music, so there’s always all these different sounds in my head. Some sounds can be expressed on conventional instruments, some need machines and I’ve developed a hybrid setup to facilitate all of that when I perform. Adding my own cultural story - allowing myself to reflect on and really show my ancestry and roots - feels like I’ve found the missing piece to my own identity and artistry.”
Heritage was recorded live at LA’s Blue Whale jazz club over three nights, as well as one day in a North Hollywood studio. Exactly where the live recording stops and the studio recording starts is all but impossible tell with de Clive-Lowe editing the material to purposely blur that line.
“The way I incorporate technology is always live - capturing and manipulating moments as they happen in real time - so this record was never about post-production, how you hear it on the album is how it happens live on stage.”
The music reflects his own experiences in Japan (“Memories of Nanzenji” recollecting his visit to the historic Kyoto temple and gardens), the samurai warrior code (“Bushidō” - “The Way of the Warrior”), childhood folk songs (“Akatombo” - an arrangement of a traditional melody as ubiquitous to Japanese people as Twinkle Twinkle is in the west) and more.
On Heritage, de Clive-Lowe is joined by a cast of world class musicians: Josh Johnson (Leon Bridges/Esperanza Spalding), Teodross Avery (Talib Kweli/Mos Def), Brandon Eugene Owens (Terrace Martin/Robert Glasper), Brandon Combs (Moses Sumney/Iman Omari) and Carlos Niño (Build An Ark/Lifeforce Trio) - who all contribute stellar performances in support of de Clive-Lowe’s music.
“These are not only my favorite musicians, but my friends, and that they were all able to be part of this project really means a lot to me. They’re all such incredible musicians, and no one brings any ego to the table - that’s one key thing that makes it possible to explore this music with a real sense of vulnerability and honesty.”
Heritage is the first in a two part project. Heritage II will be unveiled in April 2019. Original album artwork is by Japanese painter Tokio Aoyama.
"(the) avant-garde soulful pianist/DJ/producer delivers his lifetime of journeys to different musical ports in a concise package, seamlessly... transporting not just in genre but in emotion and spirit." - Huffington Post
"...de Clive-Lowe is a musical force unlike any other" - Popmatters.com
"...a timely reminder that some of the greatest producers, in line with the likes of Quincy and Stepney, are also musicians with chops as well as smart adventurers in sound." - Echoes
Mark de Clive-Lowe - piano, rhodes, synths, live electronics, programming
Josh Johnson - alto sax, flute
Teodross Avery - tenor sax
Brandon Eugene Owens - bass
Carlos Niño - additional percussion
Brandon Combs – drums
Produced by Mark de Clive-Lowe
All compositions by M. de Clive-Lowe (Mashibeats/Songs of Defend) except “Akatombo” (trad., arr M. de Clive-Lowe), “Asa no Yume” by M. de Clive-Lowe (Mashibeats/Songs of Defend) / B. E. Owens (Eugenepusher ASCAP) / J. Johnson (Sky and City Music BMI)
Recorded live at The Blue Whale, Los Angeles June 22, 23, 24, 2018 and NRG Studios, Los Angeles July 10, 2018
Live Engineer: Maximillian Sink
Live Recording Engineer: Benjamin Tierney
Studio Recording Engineer: Daniel Pampuri
Mixed by Clinton McCreery of Toni Economides Music, London
Mastered by Neil Pickles at Reveal Sound, London
Original Artwork by Tokio Aoyama
Design and Layout by Jaime Robertson
Release Date: February 8, 2019
HERITAGE PART II DUE OUT APRIL 5, 2019
MARK DE CLIVE LOWE - 'LIVE AT THE BLUE WHALE' EP
FEBRUARY 17, 2017 VIA MASHIBEATS/ROPEADOPE
Mark de Clive-Lowe delivers an outstanding 4 track EP recorded live at Los Angeles’ Blue Whale jazz club. The EP finds MdCL revisiting the grand piano, putting his first instrument front and center with his technological world of keyboards and electronics. It’s his signature amalgamation of acoustic sound sparring with new technology, joined by a world-class crew: Josh Johnson (Miguel Atwood-Ferguson/Wayne Shorter) on sax and flute, Brandon Eugene Owens (Robert Glasper/Terrace Martin) on bass and Gene Coye (Thundercat/Flying Lotus) on drums.
The instrumental EP opens with an original composition, ‘Evergreen'. Solo piano sets the mood as the composition evolves into a head‐nodding, beat‐driven journey of improvisational conversation. As the music progresses, we hear MdCL programming beats and electronics live and on the spot – manipulating and sampling his own piano, keyboards and Johnson’s sax – creating a musical palimpsest inspired by hip hop’s sampling aesthetic. Only here, the samples are all organic - performed, captured and manipulated completely on the fly.
The following tracks pay homage to three of MdCL’s heroes – Yusef Lateef firstly on the loping ‘L+H' – inspired by Yusef’s ‘Love + Humor’ with Owens and Coye underpinning the groove while MdCL and Johnson play and become live samples themselves. Sun Ra gets honored the EP’s centrepiece – an 11 minute exploration of his composition ‘The Golden Lady' – once again, MdCL’s piano is the central focus here, leading the way through a mystically evocative soundscape that reimagines the great master. Johnson switches to flute here bringing his playfulness and musical guile to the mix with the piece culminating in an intoxicating blend of beats, live samples and acoustic band. We close out with an interlude of Ahmad Jamal’s ‘Swahililand' – most famously sampled for De La Soul’s ‘Stakes is High’ by iconic producer J Dilla.
It’s a real treat to hear MdCL and band in full‐flight live show mode with none of the safety nets of studio production. Live at the Blue Whale hints at what’s more to come from a truly individual musician.