Prior to August 30th, 2017, "Doing Jazz" was known as "Doing Art".
Saxophonist, composer and vocalist Hailey Niswanger is proud to present Vol. 1: Inter-be, the debut album from her newest and most innovative configuration yet: MAE.SUN. “Vol. 1: Inter-be” showcases MAE.SUN’s eclectic sonic palette ranging from contemporary jazz to soulful funk and neo-soul. Meant to be digested in one sitting, Vol. 1: Inter-be takes listeners on an immersive, genre-bending journey rooted in the hope for universal harmony. “This music is for the world, honoring and influenced by the interdependent nature of reality,” says Niswanger.
Vol. 1: Inter-be is a great departure from Niswanger’s earlier projects; a trio of critically-acclaimed works that easily fall under the jazz and funk umbrella including Confeddie (2009), The Keeper (2012), and PDX Soul (2015).
Niswanger says: “While all these projects were representative of me at those times, I felt like I had yet to find the sound that was truly my purpose, and where I felt the most free. So I started letting go of concepts, boxes, and genres that would tell me to write or play a certain way. I opened myself up to all the many different influences around me, and began recognizing our connection to all the life we see and beyond. Meditating on this, and channeling vibrations of love and peace, I let the music flow through me, without judgement, and found MAE.SUN. This is the most honest and real I have ever felt with my music.”
Niswanger shares her deeply personal insights into “Vol. 1: Inter-be” which takes cues from Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh. In her own words:
The meditative journey starts out with “River Of Perception”. As humans, we are constantly being exposed to so many things, and our mind has the ability to create what seems like an endless river of thoughts, feelings, and perceptions, that we can easily get carried away with. We play scenarios over and over in our head, looping back, and jumping forward with erratic ideas. The music starts with a low cyclical bass line that gradually gains more elements of thought, the drums, vibes, keys, guitar, and then this saxophone voice that starts running off with these ideas, like our mind, and builds to a place that almost feels out of control. Screaming through the horn, trying to find the way, then retreating, showing that one’s own mind is the reason for one’s exhaustion. Moving forward in the suite, we explore what we can do to help calm the Self and aid the world around us. Rather than trying to analyze things, we can examine our thoughts in the sense of awareness, which is what I was going for in “Continuous Recognition”. On this track, we encourage us all to concentrate and be attentive of our thoughts, but without judgement. The bass line and groove is continuous and steady, allowing the keys and saxophone to take time to flow ideas with effortless ease and non-judgement.
In the third track “Breathe”, we are using the breath as a way to go deeper into meditation. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thought.” Breathing connects us to the here and now - the present moment. We go deeper by experiencing our sense of Self in all that is, exploring this connection, that we exist in everything. We then open up to vibrations of what the world needs most, love and peace, and to embody it completely. To “Be Love, Be Peace” so consciously and have it fill you up so intensely that it can radiate out to the rest of the world.
Because we come from a universal energy that exists in all forms of life, we can truly marvel at the fact that “Life is Limitless”. We are not limited to this body, we can feel and see our existence in the many miracles that are everywhere. This track celebrates that phenomenon.
Existing in a state of love, peace, and wondrous limitless life, we send our conscious energy to the manifestation of “Universal Harmony”. As I sat at the piano, I felt that all the suffering of the world was my own, that all the happiness of the world, was my own happiness, and as I meditated on these feelings this piece came to me immediately and I wrote it within 5 minutes. It was the exact call for Universal Harmony that I was feeling within my whole being.
In “Investigation of Reality” we are exploring how the outside world is our consciousness, and that we are not separate from it. It is us.
The “Sun of Awareness” is found in our heart. We are able to shine this light, this awareness, onto all parts of our Self; our thoughts, feelings, perceptions, how we relate to each other and the rest of the world. When we let the sun of awareness shine on our river of perception, we can see more clearly, and we can transform.
Thich Nhat Hanh says, “the verb ‘to be’ does not express the dynamic living state of the universe.” We can’t just be, for there are so many elements we need in order to survive. We coexist, and ‘Inter-be’ with everything. Here on this planet, without the sun, nothing can ‘be’. So the sun is our second heart, one that we all share and connects us all.
MAE.SUN features Hailey Niswanger on soprano saxophone, vocals, and all compositions, Nikara Warren on vibraphone, Andrew Renfroe on guitar, Axel Laugart on keys, Aaron Liao on bass, and David Frazier Jr. on drums. Niswanger has released 3 previous albums as a leader; was featured in the Wall Street Journal, on NPR, and listed in the Downbeat Magazine critics poll in the rising star category for alto and soprano saxophone for the past 5 consecutive years. She has performed with Esperanza Spalding, Mike Clark, and Terri Lyne Carrington, among many others. Warren has participated in the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead program; has shared the stage with her grandfather Kenny Barron, vocalist Charenee Wade, and Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts; as well as composes and leads her own group. Laugart released his self-titled album in 2016 and has performed with the Afro Cuban All Stars, Teresa Garcia Caturla, George Clinton, Steve Gadd, Pino Paladino, Pedrito Martinez, and many more. Renfroe has performed with many jazz and contemporary artists including, Carmen Lundy, Terrace Martin, and Nat Reeves. Liao has also performed with Patrice Rushen, Valerie Simpson, Terrence Blanchard, Antonio Sanchez, and more, and is a member of alternative experimental pop group Iris Lune. Frazier actively performs with Gabriel Garzón-Montano and SZA.
MAE.SUN is based in New York City, and has performed at National Sawdust as part of The Revolution series and ‘We Are Here’ benefit concert; Club Bonafide; and held a residency at Williamsburg Music Center. Upcoming shows are planned for Fall/Winter 2017.
In closing, Niswanger says “I hope for MAE.SUN to bring awareness to the interdependent nature of reality, and perhaps influence people to be more kind, to be peace, to be love, to make this world a better place, for we are all on this journey together.”