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Jazz album “We Sick” wrestles with racism, COVID

Davu Seru, Nathan Hanson and deVon Russell Gray present their new album “We Sick” on April 28 at The Cedar.

(Photo Credit: Courtesy of The Cedar)

This Friday Musicians deVon Russell Gray, Nathan Hanson, and Davu Seru are celebrating the release of their improvisational jazz album with a concert this Friday at The Cedar. They recorded in late 2020, as the Twin Cities continued to actively process the murder of Georg Floyd, and battle the pandemic. The album is called “We Sick.”

“Three years fast forward into the future, sadly, we still sick.”

Gray says “We Sick” is a reference to the sickness that comes from the ego fighting for individual freedom instead of a collective liberation. For the three of them, playing together is an antidote to that sickness. Nathan Hansen says improvisational jazz is about deep listening, and an openness to collaboration and new ideas.

“I think the importance of listening can't can't be overstated, that it's such a big part of the dynamic that we have among the three of us is to listen, and to amplify each other's voices and thought processes and explorations,” Nathan Hansen. “And for me, it's really the heart of the matter, this community feeling, that starts with listening.”

Saxophonist Hanson and drummer Seru have been playing together for close to 15 years; pianist deVon Gray joined the mix a few years later. Seru says the three bonded over their love of improvisation.

“Composing improvised music without sheet music in front of you is kind of rarefied air. Locally, it's hard to find people to work with who are studied in that form of playing. And so when you find them, you grab on to them,” said Seru.

They recorded ”We Sick” in Christ Lutheran Church, just steps away from the State Capitol, a few days after Christmas. Seru says they felt something powerful that day as they played. Gray says he has no doubt that spirit will be there again this Friday.

The “We Sick” release concert, which features a performance by poet Tish Jones, takes place at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis this Friday, April 28th. Doors open at 7.

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