Thanks Mark, love both records - couldn’t choose between them - the best of both worlds of the music you make. What would be equally as cool would be to see you dive into your New Zealand heritage on your next double record! Surely just as much history and music to be had there too. Cheers
Favorite track: The Silk Road.
Day turns to night as Mark de Clive-Lowe’s Heritage II takes us from the meditative zen of Heritage into a world of jazz and Japanese roots culture fused with hip hop, drum’n’bass and broken-beat.
‘Heritage is a legacy we receive from our ancestors to pass on to future generations. It’s the thread that holds us together in lineage and cultural identity,’ posits jazz and electronic music pioneer Mark de Clive-Lowe. The half-Japanese half-New Zealander presents his new album Heritage II - the partner and second installment to his critically acclaimed album Heritage, a deeply personal exploration of his Japanese cultural and ancestral roots.
“Heritage is what gives our relatively short lives context and meaning in the bigger picture of generations past and future. We are the new ancestors, and with that in mind, it’s important that we act - and contribute - accordingly. This is my identity search and journey to better understand where I’ve come from, what ancestry means to me and where I’m going to. ”
Heritage II opens with a meditative solo piano introduction, conjuring up the evocative folkloric sounds of the preceding part one album, which soon gives way to a J Dilla inspired interpretation of the traditional folk song “O-Edo Nihonbashi” - de Clive-Lowe programming beats, basslines while playing piano and keyboards live along with his band. Although the Heritage albums were recorded over three nights live at LA’s Blue Whale and one subsequent day in a North Hollywood studio, nothing you hear is overdubbed or the result of post-production “studio magic”. De Clive-Lowe’s live workflow often sees him labeled an “alien”, leaving audiences captivated by his seamless juggling of grand piano, synths, drum machines, samplers and more to create layer-upon-layer of musical stories in real time.
O-Edo Nihonbashi gives way to “Bushido II” (the way of the warrior) - recontextualizing the familiar theme from Heritage into a wildly experimental drum’n’bass ride, evoking images of great Japanese samurai warriors in full fighting mode. These opening two compositions set the scene for Heritage II - the flipside of the coin to Heritage - continuing the same story, but with new perspectives.
‘I came up loving jazz, hip hop, drum’n’bass, house, broken beat and so much more. I like to lean into these different inspirations at the same time, balancing the sonic aesthetics and stylistic approaches in unexpected ways. That’s a huge part of my own ‘in’ and ‘yo’ (yin and yang in Japanese) balance in my process and creativity. To be able to bring all of this together with musical stories of my ancestry, roots and identity is something that’s very special to me.’
De Clive-Lowe resumes his culture-rich journey throughout Heritage II, showcasing his breadth of skill as a producer, composer and instrumentalist. An artist who is as indebted to the jazz greats as much as hip hop, house and experimental music icons, de Clive-Lowe challenges us to leave our preconceptions at the door and follow him down the path on a journey of his own discovery. 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 diverse palette of genres and influences to create something quite unlike anything else.
Heritage II captures the essence of childhood folk-tales (“Ryūgū-jō - The Dragon Palace - immortalized in the story of Urashima Taro), Buddhist myths ('‘Shitennō’ - The Four Heavenly Kings - exploring the idea of ancestral protectors and guardians) and ‘The Silk Road’ - a broken-beat riding composition born from de Clive-Lowe’s learning of the identical scales used in both Ethiopian and Japanese traditional music - ‘these musical building blocks, or DNA, of traditional melodies and harmonies in Ethiopia and Japan are literally identical. Not approximately, but exactly. Understanding this helped me conclude that a common musical language traveled the old world Silk Road as much as trade, commerce, customs and learned knowledge. This is inspired by that idea and imagining a whole new world which it all leads to.’
On Heritage II, 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), Carlos Niño (Build An Ark/Lifeforce Trio) and Tylana Enomoto (Kamasi Washington/Bonobo) - 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 II is the partner album to Heritage. The album’s original artwork by Tokio Aoyama depicts Bon Odori - a summer festival dance under the night-time sky - surreally all happening inside de Clive-Lowe’s grand piano...
Track by Track by Mark de Clive-Lowe
Heritage is my personal exploration of my Japanese roots - understanding who I am, questioning the meanings of cultural and ethnic identity and what that means to me, especially with the art I create.
O-Edo Nihonbashi is a traditional Japanese folk song. I’ve always loved the melody – there’s so much story in it – and wanted to include it on this project along with the other folk song homage, Akatombo from Heritage. Edo is the old name for Tokyo and Nihonbashi is an area of Tokyo where there were bridges which the tradesmen, merchants and travelers would enter Tokyo by. For this interpretation, I wanted to bring in the influences I love from 70s fusion through to J Dilla.
This is the partner to Bushidō I from Heritage – a composition inspired by the Way of the Warrior – the Bushidō code. Righteousness, courage, compassion, respect, honesty, honor, loyalty and self-control are the characteristics that define the Way of the Warrior, and where on Heritage, Bushidō I was a somewhat more-introspective interpretation, this time around it’s a relentlessly dense drum’n’bass-meets-avant-jazz head-first leap into the warrior’s world in full battle mode. Presenting it in both ways is my way of showing that the Bushidō code can apply to any situation or reality.
“The Dragon Palace” in English, Ryūgū-jō imagines the underwater kingdom of the dragon sea god. The folk tale of Urashima Tarō tells of a man who through his compassionate actions gets rewarded with a ride on the back of a giant turtle down into the ocean to the Dragon Palace. There he’s treated like a king and spends three days indulging in all the sea god’s palace has to offer, only no one tells him that one day in the Dragon Palace is equivalent to 100 years on land. He returns home after three days and finds 300 years have passed, leaving him alone in the world with no family or friends. It’s not the happiest of tales, but my imagination was in awe dreaming up the Dragon Palace!
Isan means Heritage. This brief interlude is intended as a channel between the past and the present moment. I love the feeling of being free of tempo and rhythm, allowing a floating moment to exist without any pulse. There’s magic in these moments.
“The Four Heavenly Kings” can be often found protecting Japanese temples – intimidating giant statues wielding swords from within the gates of the temples. For the shogun and great rulers, their shitennō would be their four right-hand men – bodyguards, protectors and aides. In keeping with this whole project, I see my ancestors as my shitennō, watching over me and protecting me as I journey and walk forward. The compositions paints the picture of them in two ways – the warrior embodiment of the shogun’s four protectors represented in the main melodic theme, and the metaphysical idea of the shitennō in ancestry and the spirit world in the lush harmony of the second section.
A momentary reprieve from the warrior world with an ambient piano and synths reprise of the Mizugaki theme from Heritage. Mizugaki is my family name on my mother’s side and through this project I’ve come to understand the depth of the name. It’s an unusual name and represents the idea of a protective wall around a sacred object. The original mizugaki was a wall of trees around a mountain area where a deity would live, the mizugaki serving as protection for the deity. Similarly to Shitennō, I’ve come to see this composition as a direct homage to my ancestors and a way to channel my connection with them, knowing that they are with me and support and protect me through this life.
The Silk Road
In Ethiopia, traditional music is built from very identifiable scales called kiñit, specifically altered pentatonic scales. As it would happen, traditional Japanese music is also built off specifically altered pentatonic scales that are literally identical to those used in Ethiopia. This revelation was mind-blowing for me and leads me to the idea that these musical building blocks traveled the Silk Road along with commerce, cultural customs and academic knowledge creating an ethno-musical thread from North Africa, throughout mainland Asia to Japan and all the way back again. Broken-beat rhythms lay the foundation for the pan-Asian melody to take guide all along the Silk Road to a place of infinite possibility and new sounds.
Mirai no Rekishi
Literally “The History of the Future”, and the name of the very first concert I did which some of the Heritage music was initially composed and performed for. The wording captures the essence of this project and my outlook on music – the past informs the present which leads us to the future. All of this is inextricably intertwined and knowing where we come from gives us all the information, knowledge and guidance for where we want to go to. Without our past, our history and our ancestors, we’re nothing more than empty shells going about our daily grind. With our ancestral connection grounded within ourselves though, the possibilities are infinite.
released April 5, 2019
Mark de Clive-Lowe - piano, rhodes, synths, live electronics, programming
Josh Johnson - alto sax, flute
Teodross Avery - tenor sax ("Bushido II", "Isan" and "The Silk Road" only)
Brandon Eugene Owens - bass
Carlos Niño - additional percussion
Brandon Combs – drums
Tylana Enomoto - violin (“Ryūgū-jō” only)
Produced by Mark de Clive-Lowe
All compositions by M. de Clive-Lowe (Mashibeats/Songs of Defend) except “O Edo-Nihonbashi” (trad., arr M. de Clive-Lowe), “Mirai no Rekishi” by M. de Clive-Lowe (Mashibeats/Songs of Defend) / B. E. Owens (Eugenepusher ASCAP)
Recorded live at The Blue Whale, Los Angeles June 22, 23, 24, 2018
and NRG Studios, Los Angeles July 10, 2018
Live Engineer: Maximillian Sink
Live Recording Engineer: Benjamin Tierney
Studio Recording Engineer: Daniel Pampuri
Mixed by Clinton McCreery of Toni Economides Music, London
Mastered by Neil Pickles at Reveal Sound, London
Original Artwork by Tokio Aoyama
Design and Layout by Jaime Robertson
"(the) avant-garde soulful Pianist/DJ/Producer delivers his lifetime of journeys to different musical ports in a concise
package, seamlessly... transporting not just in genre but in emotion and spirit." - HuffingtonPost
"as natural as breathing" - All About Jazz....more
Our debut EP - Ronin Arkestra is a project I've put together with some of my favorite Japanese jazz and beat scene talent... these were the first fruits of getting together for the first time Mark de Clive-Lowe
This is music with so much thought, feeling and consideration behind it, so as to defy encapsulation in a brief review. I listen to this album with a sense of meditative gratitude. My favorite part of the album is how Overcomer settles into the mood of Songs She Never Heard. ngballard