Song You Need: Moor Mother honors a legend

“WOODY SHAW” is the lead single from Moor Mother’s newly announced July 1 album, Jazz Codes.

June 08, 2022
Song You Need: Moor Mother honors a legend Photo by Samantha Isasian.  

The FADER’s “Songs You Need” are the tracks we can’t stop playing. Check back every day for new music and follow along on our Spotify playlist.

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It’s been less than two weeks since the release of Nothing to Declare, Moor Mother’s debut joint LP with DJ Haram as 700 Bliss. But the Philadelphia rapper, poet, and fearless experimentalist also known as Camae Ayewa already has another record waiting in the wings. Jazz Codes, due out July 1, is a collaboration between Ayewa and Swedish producer Olof Melander, whom she contacted in the early days of COVID lockdown, asking if he could send her some loops to accompany a collection of poems she’d written in honor of blues and jazz legends. When he sent her hundreds, the vision of an album swam into focus, and Ayewa enlisted an army of collaborators to help realize it.

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Along with news of the forthcoming project, Ayewa has released released its lead single, “WOODY SHAW.” The new track centers her animated spoken-word poetry, somehow soothing despite the intense urgency and fearsome clarity of her lyrics. Backed by Melanie Charles, who sings circles around her steady speech, Ayewa free associates on the life of Woody Shaw, an iconic musician, composer, and educator who revolutionized the harmonic language of the trumpet before dying tragically at 44 in the 1980s.

Undergirding their vocals is an instrumental that begins as a mostly synthesized groove from Melander before blasting off into a free-jazz inferno, pivoting between meters and modes with a life of its own. The track’s recurring refrain — “Woody Shaw, elevator out of town / He’s coming, he’s coming up and down” — is stretched in all directions by Mekala and Michael Session’s manic drumming and sax, eerily placed vibraphone tones from Maia, and a relentless walking bass line from veteran improviser Henry Franklin, who played with Shaw in his prime.

“Woody Shaw was an innovator, and sometimes innovators don’t get to just do that [sic] they should,” Franklin explains near the end of the song’s Cyrus Moussavi-directed visual treatment as the track fades out, his heavy bass notes pounding behind his words. “But he’s known by all musicians — all jazz musicians know him and respect him, and they know he was a baaad man.”

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Watch the video, view Moor Mother’s upcoming European tour dates, and check out Jazz Codes‘ tracklist and features below.

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Moor Mother European tour 2022

June 16 – Lucerne, Switzerland – B Sides Festival
June 23 – Mannheim, Germany – Mannheim Triennale
June 25 – Toulouse, France – Les Siestes Electroniques
June 27 – Bolzano, Italy – Alte Adige Festival
June 30 – Roskilde, Denmark – Roskilde Festival
July 2 – Budapest, Hungary – Kolorado Festival
July 4 – Montreal, Canada – Montreal Jazz Fest
July 8 – Los Angeles, CA – Resident
August 8 – Wiltshire, UK – End of the Road Festival
August 10 – Berlin, Germany – A L’larme! X Berlin 10

Jazz Codes tracklist

1. Umzansi (feat. Black Quantum Futurism and Mary Lattimore)
2. April 7th (feat. Keir Neuringer)
3. Golden Lady (feat. Melanie Charles)
4. Joe McPhee Nation Time Intro (feat. Keir Neuringer)
5. Ode to Mary (feat. Orion Sun and Jason Moran)
6. Woody Shaw (feat. Melanie Charles)
7. Meditation Rag (feat. Aquiles Navarro and Alya Al Sultani)
8. So Sweet Amina (feat. Justmadnice and Keir Neuringer)
9. Dust Together (feat. Wolf Weston and Aquiles Navarro)
10. Rap Jasm (feat. Akai Solo and Justmadnice)
11. Blues Away (feat. Fatboi Sharif)
12. Blame (feat. Justmadnice)
13. Arms Save (feat. Nicole Mitchell)
14. Real Trill Hours (feat. Yung Morpheus)
15. Evening (feat. Wolf Weston)
16. Barely Woke (feat. Wolf Weston)
17. Noise Jism
18. Thomas Stanley Jazzcodes Outro (feat. Irreversible Entanglements and Thomas Stanley)

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Song You Need: Moor Mother honors a legend