““Our best musicians in the jazz tradition were radical imaginers,” Samora Pinderhughes says. A pianist and composer in his mid-20s, he has asserted his connection to that lineage with The Transformations Suite, an earnest and ambitious new work combining music, words and visuals. The piece, which took five years to chisel into shape, was inspired by African-American resistance and protest movements, as well as the oppression that many still endure.
Pinderhughes now lives in Harlem, but he grew up in the Bay Area, in a family of academics and social activists. Shortly after releasing The Transformations Suite last fall, he brought the project to the Way Christian Center in Berkeley for a performance that was several things at once: a homecoming, an album-release concert, a rousing community gathering.
Along with a group of smart young jazz musicians, the ensemble features spoken-word poetry by the accomplished actor Jeremie Harris and passages of soulful singing by Jehbreal Jackson. The site of convergence for these artists was Juilliard, the elite conservatory — and that unlikely setting for grassroots activism is a sign of how pressing and pervasive these issues have become.“