Roulette is proud to present a new commission by saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins entitled BLUES BLOOD | BLACK FUTURE — a work that navigates the spiritual and cultural landscape of Black America through long meditations, vamps, and multiple modalities. Based on the story of Daniel Hamm who was a member of the Harlem Six, also known as the Blood Brothers—a group of children falsely accused and tried for murder in 1965, BLUES BLOOD | BLACK FUTURE explores blues as a symbol of radical optimism in the face of adversity and blood as a symbol of all things ancestral and generational.
Immanuel Wilkins: saxophone
Micah Thomas: piano
Daryl Johns: bass
Kweku Sumbry: drums
Alyssa McDoom: voice
Ganavya Doraiswamy: voice
Yaw Agyeman: voice
Sekai Abeni: cooking
Theaster Gates, Alyssa McDoom, Sekai Abeni, Immanuel Wilkins: text/lyrics
The Immanuel Wilkins Quartet has been together for 4 years, dedicated to challenging social narratives and community building. The group has created many interdisciplinary works including collaborations with Rog Walker, David Dempewolf, Sidra Bell Dance NY, Tony Lewis, Terence Price, among others.
Immanuel Wilkins is a saxophonist, composer, arranger, and bandleader from the greater Philadelphia-area. While growing up, he honed his skills in the church and studied in programs dedicated to teaching jazz music like the Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts. Moving to New York in 2015, Wilkins proceeded to earn his bachelor’s degree in Music at Juilliard (studying with the saxophonists Bruce Williams and the late Joe Temperley) while simultaneously establishing himself as an in-demand sideman, touring in Japan, Europe, South America, The United Arab Emirates, and the United States and working and/or recording with artists like Jason Moran, the Count Basie Orchestra, Delfeayo Marsalis, Joel Ross, Aaron Parks, Gerald Clayton, Gretchen Parlato, Lalah Hathaway, Solange Knowles, Bob Dylan, and Wynton Marsalis to name just a few. It was also during this same period that he formed his quartet featuring his long-time bandmates: Micah Thomas (piano), Daryl Johns (bass), and Kweku Sumbry (drums).
Being a bandleader and having a working group for over four years has allowed Wilkins to grow both as a composer and arranger — and has led to him receiving a number of commissions including, most recently, from The National Jazz Museum in Harlem, The Jazz Gallery Artist Residency Commission Program (A collaboration with Sidra Bell Dance NY, 2020 ) and The Kimmel Center Artist in Residence for 2020 ( a collaboration with photographer Rog Walker and videographer David Dempewolf) Being emerged in the scene at a young age and sharing the stage with various jazz masters, has inspired Immanuel to pursue his goal of being a positive force in music and society. This includes quite an impressive resumé as an educator. In addition to teaching at NYU and the New School, he has taught and given master classes and clinics at schools/venues like Oberlin, Yale, and the Kimmel Center.
Ultimately, Wilkins’s mission is to create a sound that has a profound spiritual and emotional impact which will allow him to become a great leader in the long lineage of jazz musicians. Through studying the human pathos of the music and the culture of jazz, Wilkins aspires to bring people together through the commonality of love and belief in this music. His debut recording, Omega — produced by Jason Moran— was released on Blue Note Recordings on August 7, 2020.
Grounded in the traditions of the Djembe Orchestra, Kweku Sumbry is a multi-percussionist from Washington, DC. At the age of four years old Kweku fell in love with performing. Since then, Kweku has travelled the world healing through music. He began his studies as a toddler under the tutelage of his uncle, Mahiri Fadjimba Keita, founder and artistic director of Farafina Kan. Music has allowed Kweku to travel to Guinea, Senegal, Ghana, Australia, New Zealand, Amsterdam, and Turkey to name a few countries. At the age of 23, Kweku has already graced the stage with Ambrose Akinmusire, Dayna Stephens, Yosvany Terry, Cyrus Chestnut, Reggie Workman, to name a few. A true global citizen, Kweku continues to travel the world, building upon his knowledge of world music traditions and cultures. In the fall of 2015, Kweku moved to New York City and began his studies at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music on a full scholarship. While in New York Kweku has worked with Abdel Salaam’s Forces of Nature Dance Company, and the Asase Yaa African American Dance Theatre under the tutelage of Yao Ababio, and Osei Ababio. Kweku recently obtained his MA in Arts Management and Entrepreneurship from the New School (c/o 2020), after just graduating with a BFA in jazz studies from the New School in Spring of 2019. Kweku currently is a member of the Immanuel Wilkins Quartet, who recently released his debut album Omega on Blue note Records. A true lover of Art, Dance, Music, and all things pertaining to African culture, Kweku has set out to take the art world by storm, while changing the lens through which West African drumming is viewed by the rest of the world.
Bassist Daryl Johns is making his mark on the music scene nationally and internationally. He attends the Manhattan School of Music and is the son of drummer Steve Johns and saxophonist Debbie Keefe Johns. At the age of 13, Johns was a semi-finalist in the 2009 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Bass Competition. T.S. Monk wrote, “Daryl represents everything this music is about, his respect for the history belies his youth.” Since then, his many awards and citations include being named WBGO’s “Jazz Star of Tomorrow” at the 2011 Champions of Jazz at Lincoln Center; winning the 2011 Michael Kamen Solo Award; multiple Student Music Awards from DownBeat Magazine; soloist awards from the Mingus Festival, NYC; and being a 2013 YoungArts Finalist. Johns is one of the top young bassists in the world.
He was featured in Bass Quarterly Magazine in 2013. Daryl has attended the Vail and Centrum Jazz workshops, the Brubeck Institute Summer Jazz Colony, the Skidmore, NJPAC Jazz for Teens, Jazz House Kids and Litchfield Jazz camps; the Jazz in July Summer Workshop at UMass Amherst; the Teen Town Jazz at the JCC Thurnauer School of Music; and was selected to the 2011 and 2012 GRAMMY Jazz Ensembles. Daryl is the first bassist to be selected to the NextGeneration Jazz Orchestra four years in a row in its 43-year history, and is only the third person to make the Orchestra every year in high school. He’s appeared nationally and internationally with the NGJO in Japan,
the West Coast, New York City, Boston, Montreal, and three Monterey Jazz Festivals. In demand as a professional performer, John’s schedule has included; performances in and around NYC with the Wallace Roney Quintet and Jazz Orchestra performing the music of Wayne Shorter at the Charlie Parker Music Festival, NYC. A week at the Blue Note in New York City with the Legendary Guitarist, Larry Coryell Trio (double billed with the Stanley Clarke Trio). Other high-profile gigs include the Lenny White Trio and Quartet and at the Kennedy Center, Trumpets Jazz Club and the Newark Museum; and the Curtis Fuller Brasstet at the KennedyCenter.
Pianist, composer, and educator Micah Thomas grew up in Columbus, Ohio. He started playing songs on the piano by ear at the age of 2, and shortly afterward he started private piano training. From his sophomore year of high school onwards, Micah began gigging regularly with violinist Christian Howes and was a regular faculty member at his annual Creative Strings Workshop from 2015-2018. He also has appeared with Byron Stripling and the Columbus Jazz Orchestra as a guest artist, performing with John Clayton and Joshua Redman for their 45th-anniversary concert series in 2017. He has also performed throughout Ohio with many other distinguished musicians including JD Allen, Billy Contreras, Eddie Bayard, George Delancey, Cedric Easton, and Bobby Floyd. In 2015, Thomas received the Jerome L. Greene Fellowship from the Juilliard School and received his Master of Music (M.M.) degree in 2020. He is now performing in venues throughout the city both as a leader of his own groups and as a sideman for such luminaries as Immanuel Wilkins, Joel Ross, Lage Lund, Giveton Gelin, Melissa Aldana, Etienne Charles, Gabe Schnider, Harish Raghavan, Stacy Dillard, and Jure Pukl. He also appeared as a guest with Wynton Marsalis’s Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in 2017 alongside Sullivan Fortner, Aaron Diehl, and Joel Wenhardt, and as a solo performer at the 2018 Newport Jazz Festival.
In June 2020, Thomas released his first album, Tide, which received positive reviews from the New York Journal, The New York Times, JazzTimes, and Financial Times, among others. He also appears on five albums as a sideman with Immanuel Wilkins, Giveton Gelin, Walter Smith III, Harish Raghavan, and Gabe Schnider.
BLUES BLOOD | BLACK FUTURE is a Roulette commission and is possible, in part, by the Jerome Foundation. The Jerome Foundation, a long-time supporter of young composers, was a mainstay in Roulette’s early development and continues to help us fulfill our mission by presenting ambitious work by promising artists.
Photos: Dana Scruggs, Rog Walker