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Jason Palmer Creates “Duos in Dedication” for Breonna Taylor

The trumpeter's new YouTube project involves improvisatory collaboration with 14 other artists

Jason Palmer at the Berklee Benton Jazz Festival, Boston, MA, Sept. 29, 2018
Jason Palmer at the Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival, Boston, MA, Sept. 29, 2018 (photo: Joseph Allen)

Jazz is a music of the moment, and musicians from across the jazz community are finding ways to work with and respond to the obvious difficulties of the current moment. Trumpeter and educator Jason Palmer has the distinction of doing so on multiple levels. His current project comprises 14 new duo tracks—with accompanying videos—honoring Breonna Taylor, the innocent African-American woman killed in Louisville, Kentucky, in March by police executing a no-knock warrant on her home.

Palmer, an assistant professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston, based the project called Justice for Breonna Taylor: Duos in Dedication on a kernel of a musical idea. For each letter in Taylor’s name, he created a brief melodic figure. He then recorded the figures, leaving eight seconds of space (representing the number of times she was shot) between each one, and allowed 26 seconds (representing Taylor’s age when she died) of improvisation.

Palmer then asked friends and colleagues if they would be interested in contributing their own ideas to his basic track. Respondents included Berklee colleagues Kevin Harris and Jason Yeager (piano), David Fiuczynski (guitar), and Austin McMahon (drums), as well as New York saxophonists Caroline Davis, John Ellis, and Noah Preminger; pianist Carmen Staaf; bassists Michael Janisch, Zack Lober, Edward Perez, and Max Ridley; drummer Tyson Jackson; and vocalist Rachel Bade-McMurphy.

Although each collaborator worked with the same basic solo track by Palmer, each piece of music is markedly different. The trumpeter has compiled all 14 pieces and their videos into this YouTube playlist.