NPR Music

Support Public RadioLogin

Field Recordings

Brandee Younger: Taxidermy, Two-Headed Skeletons And Jazz Harp

June 6, 2013Among the vestment racks, satchel purveyors and art galleries of New York's SoHo neighborhood lies a small merchant which peddles preserved insects, skulls, bones and other geological findings. Unnerved — well, mostly — the improvising harpist generates a Caribbean bounce amid the glass cases.

Among the vestment racks, satchel purveyors and art galleries of New York's SoHo neighborhood lies a small merchant unlike its neighbors. It's called The Evolution Store, and it peddles, um, natural-history collectibles. You know, preserved insects, taxidermy, skulls and bones, remnants of marine creatures. It's as if a museum ran out of space and started putting its sloths and tarantulas in the gift shop.

Naturally, our video producers saw it and thought: Obviously, we need to record there.

We're not quite sure what any of this has to do with Brandee Younger, though she is a rare breed in her world: a jazz harpist. Well, she's classically trained, and plays her share of freelance and wedding gigs — in her C.V. are recordings for rappers Common and Drake — but like predecessors Alice Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby, she's also developed a way to improvise and truly groove on the harp. In 2011, she recorded an EP with her jazz group, and she's got more recording sessions for a full-length record in the next month.

With a full band, the song heard here, "Hortense," takes on a distinct Caribbean bounce, a one-drop reggae beat anchoring Dezron Douglas' bass line. Stripped down to a duo, it wafts and glides, all arpeggios and plucked wires. There's glass everywhere inside The Evolution Store; appropriately, the performance was sparkling and crystalline. If Younger and Douglas were unnerved by all the stuffed, mummified and two-headed fauna around them, they didn't let on — during the performance, anyway.

Credits

Produced by Saidah Blount, Mito Habe-Evans, Patrick Jarenwattananon; Videographers: Gabriella Garcia-Pardo, Mito Habe-Evans, Tim Wilkins; Audio engineered by Kevin Wait; Video edited by Gabriella Garcia-Pardo and Mito Habe-Evans; Special thanks to The Evolution Store

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

More Field Recordings

More Field Recordings
 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Podcast + RSS Feeds

Podcast RSS

  • Music Videos
     
  • Field Recordings