Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sly 5th Ave

Out 2nd June, new signing Sly5thAve’s drops his debut EP “Composite” on Tru Thoughts. The culmination of six orchestral versions of influential pop, hip-hop and R&B tracks from the last decade, Sly5thAve arranges the music of Rihanna, Drake, Frank Ocean, Lil Wayne and Gabriel Garzón-Montano, performed with the Brooklyn-based ClubCassa Chamber Orchestra.

Sly5thAve is the project of multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger and producer Sylvester Uzoma Onyejiaka II, whose sophisticated compositions are shaped by his faith in hip-hop, and deep understanding of soul and jazz. Sly5thAve’s projects and accomplishments over the last few years include; the inception of the first orchestral concert dedicated to Dr. Dre, playing saxophone with Prince, leading the ClubCassa Chamber Orchestra, and his revered co-reworking of Herbie Hancock’s classic ‘Headhunters’ LP with Jesse Fischer which was debuted on Tru Thoughts in 2015.

“Composite” ties together 6 tracks from Sly5thAve’s early experimental phase on one release for the first time. “It’s a milestone” Sly5thAve explains, “It shows the journey towards calling myself an arranger today”. Four years in the making, “Composite” was initially recorded by Sly5thAve and two members of the ClubCassa Chamber Orchestra’s thirty musicians: Jay Jennings and Joey Rayfield, in the basement of the ClubCassa Chamber Club House – a Victorian mansion a stone’s throw from Ditmas Park. On “Composite”, Sly5thAve arranges popular R&B, pop and hip-hop tracks and repurposes them with music and musicianship at the fore by replacing synthesised sounds and samples with live musicians and organic textures.

“Super Rich Kids” opens the EP with an expansive drumbeat and jazz flute, substituting Frank Ocean’s vocals for bright piano notes - akin to those used by legendary composer, arranger and producer David Axelrod whom many of hip-hop’s greats (Dr. Dre, Wu-Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest) sampled. The warm buzz of reverb underneath the soulful ooh’s take the hook, before the flutes and horn section carry the bridge and reconstruct the iconic tension of the original. “I was really into ‘Channel Orange’ when it came out it. I really liked that kind of R&B sound that wasn’t so neo-soul, it wasn’t so pop. The chord progression really stuck out to me.” Sly5thAve explains. The brilliant “Everything Is Everything” fills out the cool syncopation of Gabriel Garzón-Montano’s original into a tight jam, retaining the head-nodding drum patterns and breaks, and swapping in a sound that oozes with New York’s contemporary jazz vibrations, before dropping into a spacious drum breakdown that harks back to rhythms on his first solo album ‘Akuma’ inspired by his Nigerian descent.

On unmistakable trap number “Love Me”, Sly5thAve softens the high-energy beat by replacing it with beautiful horns, and omits Drake’s feature for dramatic flute bars. “I grew up listening to Lil Wayne” Sly5thAve explains “When he was 16 he came out on Cash Money Records and in the southern United States that whole contemporary trap sound had been going on for 20 years before it hit anywhere else”. On Rihanna’s monumental “Pour It Up”, the triumphant flugelhorns take control before launching into a powerful crescendo of trumpet, trombone and bass clarinet notes. On love groove “Stay”, staccato strings and woodwind impart a new agency and transform Rihanna’s anathema of showing the vulnerability of true love into a beautiful and empowering arrangement. Closing the EP, Sly5thAve’s take of “Hold On, We’re Going Home” focusses on the famous 1-6-2-5 jazz turnaround and replaces the jacked beat with intensifying string swells to create an unmistakably honest composition that stands tall next Drake’s notorious pop classic.


released June 2, 2017

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