One of the foremost faces of the current progressive jazz movement, 2x GRAMMY® Award-nominated drummer/composer/producer Nate Smith releases the second song from his inspired new album, Kinfolk 2: See The Birds. Dedicated to his father, who passed away in 2015, the gospel-laced ballad “Fly (For Mike)” features Brittany Howard, with whom Smith collaborated on her Grammy-winning 2019 album, Jaime. The song also features poignant solos from saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, guitarist Brad Allen Williams, and keyboardist Jon Cowherd.
“Every time I fly, I think of my late father, to whom this song is dedicated,” says Smith. “When I wrote it, I wanted the music to evoke a feeling of freedom from suffering. I’m so grateful that Brittany wrote such gorgeous lyrics, and sang them so beautifully. It’s my hope that this song will bring comfort to anyone who has experienced loss, along with the reassurance that their loved ones are no longer suffering.”
“It is no secret that I consider Nate to be one of the best drummers on Earth,” says Howard. “I feel so lucky to share the stage with him and have him in my band. I was honored to be asked to co-write and sing a song on his new album. It took on extra special meaning when I learned it was about his late father who I know was such an important figure in his life. So many folks have experienced loss over this past year and a half and I hope this song in some way helps those struggling right now get through these challenging times.”
Kinfolk 2: See The Birds is the highly anticipated follow-up to 2017’s GRAMMY® Award-nominated Kinfolk: Postcards From Everywhere. It arrives via Edition Records on Friday, September 17; pre-orders are available now. The album was heralded last month with its first single, the hip-hop centric “Square Wheel,” which finds Smith juggling odd-meter beats in unison with rapper Kokayi’s intrepid rhythmic cadence alongside singer Michael Mayo’s impassioned vocals as well as Williams on guitar, bassist Fima Ephron, saxophonist Shaw and Cowherd on keys. A companion music video filmed in the recording studio is streaming on YouTube now.
“The politics of a high school cafeteria and band room are cutthroat,” says Smith. “At every turn, there is a brutal competition to be the coolest, the most unique, the most talented, the funniest. The square wheel was me; the kid in the back of the lunchroom with his manuscript pad open, writing snare drum parts for marching band.”
Kinfolk 2: See the Birds affirms Nate Smith as one of the most dynamic drummers, insightful composers, and engaging bandleaders of his generation, adept across infinite genres and multiple styles. The album sees Smith joined by an array of diverse fellow artists, including singers Brittany Howard, Amma Whatt, legendary guitarist Vernon Reid, violinist Regina Carter, vibraphonist Joel Ross, rapper Kokayi, and, Michael Mayo, and Stokley Williams (of the pioneering R&B band Mint Condition).
Kinfolk 2: See the Birds marks the second installment in a remarkable trilogy charting Smith’s continuing evolution as a musician and composer. While Kinfolk: Postcards From Everywhere touched upon Smith’s childhood in Chesapeake, VA, and the sounds that he absorbed in his family home, the new album offers an impressionistic portrait of the artist as a young man considering his future in music. Those years saw Smith inspired by the diverse and eclectic riches of Prince and Michael Jackson, hip-hop and the emerging neo-soul movement, as well as music associated with the groundbreaking Black Rock Coalition such as Living Colour (whose trailblazing founder, Vernon Reid, appears on the new album’s menacing “Rambo”).
“I can’t really overstate the importance of Living Colour’s impact on me,” Smith says. “I didn’t grow up in a rock-n-roll house; I grew up in an R&B house. Besides Prince, the only other Black man that I ever remember seeing with a guitar was George Benson. I didn’t know anything about Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, or even Jimi Hendrix.”
However, Kinfolk 2 is no throwback – Smith reconciles his teenaged influences with the modern jazz sensibilities that he’s demonstrated with not just his solo material but as a sideman with such jazz titans as guitarist Pat Metheny, bassist Dave Holland, and saxophonists Ravi Coltrane and Chris Potter. Recorded mostly in two band sessions – June 2019 at Sear Sound in New York City and February 2020 at the Bunker Studio in Brooklyn – the album projects a dreamy, cinematic sensibility as the music ebbs and flows from wistful downtempo excursions to rugged hip-hop beats, hypnotic alt-rock leaning tunes to amorous laments. Kinfolk 2 boasts a slightly different lineup for its core ensemble than its predecessor. Saxophonist Jaleel Shaw and bassist Fima Ephron return, while Smith welcomes guitarist Brad Allen Williams and keyboardist Jon Cowherd to the combo.
For nearly two decades, Nate Smith has been a key piece in reinvigorating the international music scene with his visceral, instinctive, and deep-rooted style of drumming. He holds a diverse and ample résumé, including work with esteemed jazz leading lights such as Pat Metheny, Dave Holland, Chris Potter, José James, and Ravi Coltrane, as well as collaborations with Vulfpeck spinoff band The Fearless Flyers, Brittany Howard (of Alabama Shakes), Emily King, and Van Hunt.
“Drummer Nate Smith provides more than just a beat. He intentionally weaves nuanced rhythmic counterpoint in and out of his catchy melodies and dulcet harmonies,” said NPR Music for Smith’s Tiny Desk
performance in 2017 in support of Kinfolk: Postcards From Everywhere. Hailed by All About Jazz as “a many-faceted jewel whose luster only grows with re-examination,” Kinfolk: Postcards From Everywhere was met by international acclaim, earning two GRAMMY® Award nominations for “Best Instrumental Composition” and “Best Arrangement, Instrumental, or A Capella.” Downbeat gave the album four stars, while the New York Times said, “all sorts of sounds participate in building the rhythm: taut but resonant bass notes, clipped guitar playing, zagging saxophone lines. The result is a sound that’s tart, bittersweet and almost nostalgic…and his drumming is a marvel unto itself.”
Smith – who recently relocated from New York City to Nashville, affording him recording opportunities with multi-instrumentalist Mike Elizondo, producer Dave Cobb, and singers Shania Twain and James Bay – followed Kinfolk: Postcards From Everywhere with projects including 2018’s breakbeat solo drums LP, Pocket Change, and last year’s R&B-infused EP, Light and Shadow.
KINFOLK 2: SEE THE BIRDS
Release Date: September 17, 2021