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Ambrose Akinmusire's 'Hooded procession' Is A Virtual Funeral Dirge

Throughout his career, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire has eulogized Black men and women murdered by police and vigilantes — from 22-year-old Oscar Grant, who was slain by a BART officer in Oakland not far from where the artist grew up, to the many names read by a young Muna Blake (daughter of jazz drummer Johnathan Blake) on 2014's "Rollcall for Those Absent."

Akinmusire closes out his fifth studio album, On the Tender Spot of Every Calloused Moment, with a track called "Hooded procession (read the names outloud)," setting aside both his trumpet and words for a stately Fender Rhodes keyboard. Bare and simple chords stand in for literal names, but the emotions are no less charged or palpable — and much like the killings themselves, as soon as one chord disappears, a new one emerges. Even when a sense of calm arises, the mind wanders to the reason why this funeral dirge was warranted in the first place.

A subtle melodic shift moves the "procession" out of a solemn church service and into the mind of the artist, who rather aimlessly strikes a high seventh. The transition suggests Akinmusire taking a moment to allow himself to vent, to feel frustration, even anger, in having to tackle these weighty issues in his work so often, or at all.

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Shannon J. Effinger
Shannon J. Effinger has been a freelance arts journalist for more than a decade. Her writing on all things jazz and music regularly appears in Pitchfork, Bandcamp, Jazziz, Jazzwise, and Downbeat. As of the fall of 2020, her arts coverage can also be found in The New York Times and The Washington Post; the latter features her Sunday arts cover story on Marshall Allen, the longtime leader of the Sun Ra Arkestra.