Abel Promise

Hi All,

Years ago, I composed a nine movement suite inspired by the life of Elijah Abel, the first African-American ordained to the Mormon priesthood, whose story I stumbled across in the library at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. At the same time, I walked past a stone monolith in the Ruggles Station every single day. Samuel Allen's poem, "Harriett Tubman (a.k.a. Moses)" was engraved on that stone, and each day I memorized a line or two of his masterpiece. It was my little ritual for getting through each day as I swam in the confusion of my own faith crisis. 

Those three ingredients–Elijah Abel's story, Samuel Allen's poetry, and my personal faith crisis–stewed inside and starting giving form to new music. It came in pieces, eventually comprising a story of a "terrible grimace of faith," of disillusionment and grief, of rebirth into a sophisticated (albeit childlike) resolve to keep moving. 

I've spent years looking for the right people to record this with. I needed musicians with a fiery creative resolve to inhabit vulnerability, to trust what they hear instead of what they know, and to play as though each time might be their last. They also needed a spiritual sensitivity, a shared experience of recovering from spiritual trauma. I've finally found them: my brothers from the Kobie Watkins Grouptet. This group of musicians is truly remarkable. Playing with them is one of the joys of my life. Our first album together garnered international acclaim, and was named on of the 10 Best Albums of 2018 by the Chicago Tribune.

Now, it's time to record  this piece–Abel Promise–and I'm asking for your help.

Over the years, I've performed the suite several times. I started wondering if maybe it was done. But then, several months ago, we sight read some of the Abel Suite in front of a live audience, and the room absolutely came ALIVE. That's when I knew that this piece hadn't run its course. There is still creative life wanting to breathe through this music. It really is time to record it now. 

The funds you contribute will  pay the musicians, engineers, and artists to create a work that, I hope, honors all of these beautiful pieces. I'd love to come out of our social distancing with the funding to form connections with all of you through this music. In order to record later this year, we would need the budget in place by the end of April (assuming the Corona virus let's us move forward with it all come July) 

Your support on this project would mean the world to me. It would help bring attention to an oft unspoken story, and would help create a work of music meant to stand by every person who has ever experienced the pain and confusion of disillusionment; who found the inner strength to keep going anyways, to trust their inner voice, whether it invites us to stay or go. (But it always invites us to move.) 

If you can donate even a few dollars, it will go a long ways to help make this record a reality. I promise that these musicians will make it a truly memorable project for all of us. 


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