Oakland born trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire is a fearless bandleader who has used his voice to dissect the complexity of black life in America. At Summer Fest, he’ll be joined on stage by Rafiq Bhatia, described by The New York Times as “a guitarist who refuses to be pinned to one genre, culture or instrument,” for a completely improvised performance.
Born and raised in Oakland, Ambrose Akinmusire was a member of the Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble when he caught the attention of saxophonist Steve Coleman. Ambrose was asked to join Coleman’s Five Elements, embarking on a European tour when he was just a 19-year-old student at the Manhattan School of Music. After returning to the West Coast to pursue a Master’s degree at the University of Southern California, Akinmusire went on to attend the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in Los Angeles (now the Herbie Hancock Institute), where he studied with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Terence Blanchard.
In 2007, Ambrose won the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. That year, he also won the Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition and released his debut album Prelude…To Cora on the Fresh Sound label. He moved back to New York and began performing with the likes of Vijay Iyer, Aaron Parks, Esperanza Spalding and Jason Moran.
His Blue Note debut, When The Heart Emerges Glistening, was released in 2011 to rapturous reviews. The Los Angeles Times praised his “chameleonic tone that can sigh, flutter or soar,” adding that “Akinmusire sounds less like a rising star than one that was already at great heights and just waiting to be discovered.” His most recent studio album, on the tender spot of every calloused moment, Ambrose delivers a somber yet vibrant tone that conveys jazz and blues in equal measure. It’s the latest in a rich assembly of music he’s released, each album drawn from very real emotions and instances in his life
The New York Times states that Rafiq Bhatia “treats his guitar, synthesizers, drum machines, and electronic effects as architectural elements — sound becomes contour; music becomes something to step into rather than merely follow.” In describing the unified tone of his output despite his varied influences, the BBC shares that “[Bhatia’s] music manages to marry the busyness and vibrancy of jazz and the sparseness and sparkle of electronic music.”
Since 2014, Rafiq has been a member of the post rock trio Son Lux; together, they have released several critically-acclaimed albums, given hundreds of performances internationally and have been nominated for a Grammy Award for their soundtrack to the feature film Everything Everywhere All At Once. A voracious collaborator, Rafiq has also worked with a multitude of artists across generations and musical communities, including Ian Chang, Marcus Gilmore, Mary Halvorson, Billy Hart, Vijay Iyer,Kronos Quartet, Okkyung Lee, Nina Moffitt, Qasim Naqvi, Kassa Overall, Chris Pattishall, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Moses Sumney, Rajna Swaminathan, and David Virelles.
His 2018 album, Breaking English (Anti-), finds a visceral common ground between ecstatic avant-jazz, mournful soul, tangled strings and building-shaking electronics, resulting in a “stunningly-focused new sound” (Chicago Reader) that “resemble[s] science fiction on a blockbuster scale” (Washington Post). His 2020 EP, Standards Vol. 1 (Anti-) renders repertoire from the American songbook “completely deconstructed, infused with brand new textures and electronic effects, dreamlike and beautiful” (BBC).
Ambrose Akinmusire on Instagram
Rafiq Bhatia on Instagram
The "cool" counterpart to our annual Summer Fest, Winter Fest presents the best new discoveries in jazz, blues, Latin, salsa, Americana and more.
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