“Heritage is the idea of transmitting from the past to the future - knowing more about who we are and where we’re going by understanding where we come from. It’s about identity and one’s place in the world,” muses pianist and electronics wizard Mark de Clive-Lowe. For the half-Japanese half-New Zealander who calls Los Angeles home, his latest musical offering, Heritage, is a deeply personal exploration of his ancestry and cultural roots.
I was raised bi-culturally and as time goes on, the more I appreciate how much I owe to my roots. Japan is my spiritual and ancestral home - the connection I feel there is so visceral and has shaped much of my life, largely without me even being fully aware of its influence. This music is me openly embracing and interpreting what Japan means, feels like and sounds like to me.
Leaning into the moods and textures of Japan’s folk- loric mythology and culture in tandem with his already nuanced blend of jazz, live electronics and sampling, de Clive-Lowe takes us on a culture-rich journey through his own sonic imagination, seamlessly fusing genres and blurring the lines between technology and live musicianship.
De Clive-Lowe is somewhat of a musical chameleon; as comfortable on the grand piano in a jazz club as he is multi-tasking electronics and live beats for a dance floor. Like his peers Kamasi Washington, Makaya McCraven and Robert Glasper, de Clive-Lowe isn’t content to simply play the jazz lane and he purposefully reaches across a broad palette of genres and influences to create something quite unlike anything else.
“I grew up on a mix of jazz, hip-hop and electronic music, so there’s always all these different sounds in my head. Some sounds can be expressed on conventional instruments, some need machines and I’ve developed a hybrid setup to facilitate all of that when I perform. Adding my own cultural story - allowing myself to reflect on and really show my ancestry and roots - feels like I’ve found the missing piece to my own identity and artistry.”
Heritage was recorded live at LA’s Blue Whale jazz club over three nights, as well as one day in a North Hollywood studio. Exactly where the live recording stops and the studio recording starts is all but impossible tell with de Clive-Lowe editing the material to purposely blur that line.
The way I incorporate technology is always live - capturing and manipulating moments as they happen in real time - so this record was never about post-production, how you hear it on the album is how it happens live on stage.
The music reflects his own experiences in Japan (Memories of Nanzenji recollecting his visit to the historic Kyoto temple and gardens), the samurai warrior code (Bushidō - The Way of the Warrior), childhood folk songs (Akatombo - an arrangement of a traditional melody as ubiquitous to Japanese people as Twinkle Twinkle is in the west) and more.
On Heritage, de Clive-Lowe is joined by a cast of world class musicians: Josh Johnson (Leon Bridges/Esperanza Spalding), Teodross Avery (Talib Kweli/Mos Def), Brandon Eugene Owens (Terrace Martin/Robert Glasper), Brandon Combs (Moses Sumney/Iman Omari) and Carlos Niño (Build An Ark/Lifeforce Trio) - who all contribute stellar performances in support of de Clive-Lowe’s music.
“These are not only my favorite musicians, but my friends, and that they were all able to be part of this project really means a lot to me. They’re all such incredible musicians, and no one brings any ego to the table - that’s one key thing that makes it possible to explore this music with a real sense of vulnerability and honesty.”
Heritage is the first in a two part project. Heritage II will be unveiled in April 2019. Original album artwork is by Japanese painter Tokio Aoyama.
Heritage I is planned for release on February 8 2019 in Digital / CD / Vinyl formats
01: The Offering
02: Bushidō 1
03: Memories of Nanzenji
07: Asa no Yume