ONYX COLLECTIVE SHARES NEW SINGLE
VIA CHROMEO’S JULIET LABEL
“Onyx Collective fold [Manhattan’s] vintage Jazz Age charm into a contemporary soundscape”
“For Experimental Jazz Group Onyx Collective, the Only Rule Is ‘No Rules'”
The New York Times
“They’ve risen to the forefront of New York’s experimental jazz renaissance”
Today, New York City’s Onyx Collective is back to share a new single. “Baby” sees the group striking out in a new direction, with Onyx’s lead vocalist Julian Soto providing angelic vocals over smooth instrumentation that gets funkier as the track progresses. The song is co-produced by Onyx Collective and Chromeo, and is released via Chromeo’s recently launched label Juliet. It’s part of a larger collaborative project that Onyx Collective and Chromeo have been working on.
In 2015, Onyx was asked to perform at a 24 hour dance party at the Guggenheim museum for Agathe Snow’s exhibition. For this show the group decided to compose its own music with vocals and lyrics that would be suited for a dance party. As time went on, the group was able to adapt this new style into night club shows around New York City. It also allowed the band to bring in guests such as Nick Hakim, Dev Hynes, Princess Nokia, Gabriel Garzon Montano, Ian Isiah and more. At the core of the groups new sound is lead vocalist Julian Soto. Onyx went on to play many opening shows for vocalists (Thundercat, Bilal, Kelsey Lu) and continued to establish a set list of new music that experimented in other styles other then jazz.
For the funk songs, Onyx teamed up with Chromeo to record some of the original songs that they had been performing live for years. The group took the time to record in Burbank and experiment with new production ideas and instruments to create a new sound. The new songs are a testament to the chameleon-like nature of Onyx Collective, who are never bound by a single sound, energy, or vibe. The funk set has become a favorite amongst fans, and “Baby” is the first recorded song to be released from it.
“Baby” arrives on the heels of Onyx Collective releasing their most recent album Onyx Collective Plays Rodgers & Hart / Rodgers & Hammerstein on April 24th of this year. The album is comprised entirely of Onyx Collective’s reimaginations of songs from the legendary songwriting duos of Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II and Rodgers & Lorenz Hart. On the project Onyx Collective brought in several of their closest collaborators to feature, including Kesley Lu, Okya Kaya, Ian Isiah, Nick Hakim, duentida, and more.
Hear “Baby” above, read more about Onyx Collective below, and stay tuned for more soon.
About Onyx Collective:
If Onyx Collective, the nebulous jazz ensemble whose name you may have overheard in downtown Manhattan at some point in the past couple years, seems elusive it is because they often are. Onyx shows are unannounced, impromptu affairs: the group will perform in a basement, at a cocktail lounge atop a hotel, and to the street from a storefront all in the course of a week. The cast of performers is interchangeable, as is the kind of music that they play. Salsa and funk are fair game, in addition to the band’s own unique style of jazz.
Onyx Collective is a steadfast part of New York, and the city is the glue that holds the group together. “New York’s role in Onyx Collective is everything,” explains Isaiah Barr, saxophonist, sometimes vocalist, and de facto leader of the band. “The names of people, the places, the street corners here are so legendary and historically prominent – it leaves a roadmap that we can walk through and a story for us to follow.”
Though an often rotating cast, Barr and Austin Williamson (on drums) are regularly joined by Joshua Benitez on keyboard, Jack Guliemetti on guitar, Felix Pastorius and Spencer Murphy on electric bass, and Dean Torrey and Walter Stinson on upright bass, with Maxwell Deter providing most of Onyx Collective’s visual art. There is an additional group of artists who consistently orbit in and out of the Onyx universe. Nick Hakim, Princess Nokia, Julian Soto, Dev Hynes, Wiki, and other New York mainstays have performed with the band, and Onyx quietly features on a bevy of other artists’ records. Barr featured 3 times on the new David Byrne record and made a cameo in Ibeyi’s live band for their performance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. More recently Onyx Collective toured as A$AP Rocky’s live band.
The group’s enigmatic nature is undeniably a part of its allure, but the force that truly propels the group is technical musical proficiency (the band’s members attended New York’s musical conservatories as kids) coupled with a reckless abandon. Onyx runs a manic energy through their classical training to create a live show that at times feels as punk as it does jazz. Barr is known to wield two saxophones simultaneously, playing both over Williamson’s feverish drumming.
In September of 2016, with little fanfare, Onyx Collective released Second Avenue Rundown, a collection of live recordings released via Supreme and Know-Wave. The vinyl sold out almost immediately, and the project cannot be found online – if listeners wanted to hear the group they had to track them down in New York. A little over a year after Second Avenue Rundown, Onyx Collective made their official debut beyond the city with the release of their EPs Lower East Suite Part One and Two in 2017. The recordings found on the projects are predominantly taken from live performances the band played across the city, capturing a diverse array of atmospheres and moments from New York. The band also released a joint 12″ with Nick Hakim exclusively for Record Store Day 2018. Lower East Suite Part Three marked the first time that the group shared an entire project of recorded music that is written rather than improvised.
In 2020, following a year of extensive touring and various special one off performances, the group returned with the release of their album Onyx Collective Plays Rodgers & Hart / Rodgers & Hammerstein on April 24th of this year. Manhattan Special was produced by Isaiah Barr of Onyx Collective and Jeremy Yohai of Concord Music Publishing. The album is comprised entirely of Onyx Collective’s reimaginations of songs from the legendary songwriting duos of Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II and Rodgers & Lorenz Hart. On the project Onyx Collective brought in several of their closest collaborators to feature, including Kesley Lu, Okya Kaya, Ian Isiah, Nick Hakim, duentida, and more.
“There’s something about where we play that makes it an Onyx Collective show,” says Barr. “Not who we play to, that’s not what drives it. It’s where we play.” Onyx Collective needs the city – the group could not exist without it. And at a time when New York seems more plagued than ever, it is apparent that the city needs Onyx Collective. “Our role in New York is to tell its story,” concludes Barr. “In a way that is accrediting and paying homage to those before us, and to then add to what they’ve done.”