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Brandon Coleman Unveils Ethereal New Album ‘Interstellar Black Space’

An LA-based keyboard maestro, vocalist, composer, producer, arranger and astral traveller, Brandon Coleman is certified Brainfeeder family, collaborating with label founder Flying Lotus and Thundercat, he is a regular fixture in Kamasi Washington’s incredible band. Fingers dancing across the keys or wielding his keytar, Kamasi has been known to introduce him onstage at gigs as “Professor Boogie”.

‘Interstellar Black Space’ represents a new chapter in the Funk dynasty that spans George Clinton / Parliament Funkadelic, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Weather Report and honours their collective ethos of freedom and experimentation. Brandon describes the record as “a celestial encounter for your eardrum”, and describes a long held desire to create music for astronauts to enjoy on their missions.

Inspired by Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and George Duke’s rich musical catalogue: “This record is a reflection of how I felt about time, space, and celestial energy,” he explains. “I love space movies like Interstellar and The Martian – and I thought to myself, if I was traveling through space what would I want to hear?” As it transpires, the answer is “Blast Off” – the lead single that distills the essence of Funk into a scorching 01 min 48 secs – thrusting the record into the upper atmosphere with a joyful, intoxicating fusion that recalls “Street Songs”-era Rick James, Cameo and Dazz Band at their finest. “I wanted to write something that I would want to hear whilst traveling from planet to planet searching for a rare precious metal that we need to bring back to Earth,” he laughs.

Steadfastly future-facing, but with a deep respect and passion for his lineage and the origins of Black music in the US (“I’ve always been a conduit of spiritual music”) Brandon references passages from James Brown’s autobiography that describe the role of music on the plantations. “He wrote about how enslaved people were banned from playing instruments. I think plantation owners knew it was a means of communication, so they were given only one day of rest from working tirelessly all year – and on their one day off they were allowed to play music and do whatever they wanted. They would start to build drums in the morning and literally play drum music all day from sunup to sundown, well into the night. The story is that across all these different plantations from miles and miles away all you’d hear was the drums – and all of them, across plantations, were connected by “the one”. So much of modern music is based on “the one”. It’s a Negro thing that’s the basis of funk: James Brown, Larry Graham, Sly Stone, Bootsy Collins. So ‘On the One’ is my homage to the lineage. I wanted something uplifting.”

Closing the album is “Mutha Afrika” which goes back even further: “Africa is the mother of rhythm, and the moment I hear this song I think of jubilation. I think of dancing. I think of ancestors. I think of lineage. I think of auto-didacticism,” says Brandon. “No one taught us how to play these drums, no one taught us how to play this music. We just did it. It’s part of who we are.”

Coleman shows off remarkable versatility on ‘Interstellar Black Space’, demonstrating that he is a master balladeer as well as a conductor of the high octane Funk energy that propels this album. Referring to second single “Be With Me”, Brandon once again refers to his study of Black music: “There’s a culture of music that I grew up with that I’ve always loved and it’s always spiritually spoken to my soul: the lyrics of The Delfonics, Four Tops, Manhattans… groups like that motivated me to want to write a truly inspired song. I wrote this in 30 minutes. We recorded it in one take. It’s soul music through the mind of synthesizers!”

Following his previous album ‘Resistance’ (2018), Brandon wanted to attain more of a live sound and to rely less on production on ‘Interstellar Black Space’. A big part of that was bringing in respected friends such as Kamasi Washington, Patrice Quinn, Ryan Porter, Samir Elmehdaoui, Stanley Rudolph, Sean Sonderegger and Yvette Holzworth, in addition to GRAMMY-winner Keyon Harrold (trumpet), Ben Williams (bass) and drummer Marcus Gilmore (Taylor McFerrin / Chick Corea) with whom Brandon collaborated on “We Change (Part II)” and “Astral Walk” – two compositions that represent the jazzed-out angles of the album. “These are all artists that I’ve just always admired,” explains Brandon. “They also represent a sound and culture that I wanted to be a part of this project.”

Brandon grew up in South Central LA with an older brother who switched him on to Miles Davis at an early age. “There would be a lot of times kids at school would be singing a popular song and I wouldn’t know it. Instead, I was blasting Kenny Kirkland and Chick Corea and they’d all think I was speaking another language”. Brandon began teaching himself piano at age 16. By age 17, he landed his first touring gig with Brian McKnight and he has since lent his talents to some of the world’s top artists from Babyface, Roy Hargrove and Stanley Clarke to Alicia Keys and Childish Gambino. Coleman has been a prominent contributor to albums by Kamasi Washington, Thundercat and Flying Lotus, among others. He also opened for Flying Lotus on his “Flamagra” North American tour in 2019.

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