Accomplished singer and Harlem native Vivian Sessoms, in the company of some of the world’s finest musicians, stakes a claim to a sound all her own on her new album LIFE. Having earned her stripes as a performer with Ryuichi Sakamoto, P. Diddy, Michael Jackson, Donna Summer and many others, Sessoms and co-producer/creative partner Chris Parks bring their vast array of experiences to bear on an inspired, jazz-influenced set that proves Sessoms a fiery, forward-thinking artist in her own right.
“Although LIFE started out as a jazz record,” Sessoms recalls, “there was a lot happening here in the U.S. and in the world, and that really started to shape and influence my choices in what to record. I was also writing songs that were going in a bit of a different direction, and that’s kind of when it all started to come together.” Whether she’s recasting material by Billy Strayhorn, Stevie Wonder, The Stylistics and Cole Porter or putting forward her riveting originals including the topical “I Can’t Breathe,” Sessoms is consistently powerful and very much at home within these finely crafted and surprising arrangements. The acoustic and electric blend, the expansive harmonic concept of keyboardist Shedrick Mitchell, the flowing grooves anchored by drummers Donald Edwards and Billy Kilson (among others), the subtle electronic touches: it all coheres to make LIFE something confident and unique, a definitive statement.
“In our work together, Chris [Parks] and I have covered a lot of ground from rock to soul to jazz,” Sessoms observes, “But I think the underlying thread is that it’s all kind of funky or leans toward soul. Our first project was a rock record with our then band Vivid, a nod to my favorite band Living Colour, but even that had a kind of funk-rock vibe. We have radically different ideas about production sometimes — it’s like a poker game, ‘If you do this, I’ll do that.’ But it seems works for us..”
release date: november 2, 2018
About Vivian Sessoms
Vivian Sessoms was born in Harlem, and was raised between Philly and Harlem as a child with some stops in Newark & Camden NJ. As she likes to say – ‘she lived in all the ‘hoods. Her parents were free thinkers, creatives who were immersed in music and cultural expression. Early on she just knew that one day she would be a singer, and that knowledge became a compelling need that drove her forward. With her parents singing and playing music around her, harmonizing and sharing the essence, the structure of music, there was never another option. The church figured in as well, as her grandmother made sure she was in church most Sundays, and the spirit of gospel music was forever entangled with her destiny.
Many of us are separated from the realization of our destiny, but this is not so with Vivian. As a young girl she expressed the sense of her presence in history through music, and as she began to seek career opportunities she landed a gig with the great Ryuichi Sakamoto. One can not overstate the challenge of performing as a young vocalist with a music master like Sakamoto; singing in Japanese, Vivian was able to match her Black American roots with the expansive knowledge of an acclaimed ethno-musiciologist. Sakamoto brings a unique perspective: rather than expanding out from the root, he begins from a classical background and adds elements of multicultural styles to his final compositions. It is exactly this approach that brings Vivian’s album – LIFE – into sharp focus. The roots of her musical upbringing (soul, jazz, gospel) are there in powerful form, and yet a diverse and universal aspect is presented in every arrangement and composition.
And so, prepare yourself for the world of Vivian Sessoms - the versatile singer - songwriter - arranger - producer of LIFE. The album is a trans-generational document that manages to speak directly to this time on earth. All of the ingredients of a worldly mix of styles are present, with the groove and feeling of the church, the popular music of her time, and players that make it fresh. Led by Vivian and co-producer, Chris Parks, LIFE features a diverse cast of musicians, beginning with her persistent collaborations with Saxophonist Casey Benjamin and Pianist Shedrick Mitchell and followed by appearances from Brandee Younger, Keyon Harrold, Donny McCaslin, and Gregoire Maret, among others.
While there is no shortage of acclaimed musicians included in this project, it is clear LIFE is a labor of love, and not just titles. Ever present in the creation of this record is Chris Parks, Vivian’s long time creative partner. Every recorded album is a document - a testament to life at a certain time, or perhaps in a series of times. It would be easy to state that Vivian Sessoms’ voice is transcendent, but LIFE, the album, takes that voice and takes it higher; the songs on LIFE are for all of us, built of collaboration, of love, and of purpose.