Sly5thAve (Brooklyn) On The Main Ingredient February 4th!
Sly5thAve caught a lot of people’s attention last year (including mine) with a series of instrumental covers of select hit records (Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe, Suit & Tie and Home On We’re Going Home, below, along with several others) featuring the somewhat mysterious (at least to me at the time) ClubCasa Chamber Orchestra. Further light was shed during my interview with Denitia and Sene in November and now Sly himself will join me in the studio to talk about those and his debut Jazz album “Akuma” which is coming out on February 11th. You can stream “Deme” which features Denitia on vocals below as well.
A musician is but a man and his story, and Sly5thAve tells tales of the multifarious African-American legacy. From his roots in the Mother Land to the foundation he’s laid on the New York City streets, the Nigerian jazz musician with a penchant for soulful reincarnations has transformed his heritage into a symphonic odyssey. His creative spin on the institutions of jazz has brought him into the hustle of everyday music making, beginning in nightclubs and dive bars and flying onward to the stage with Prince and the New Power Generation. As his work ascends on the pillar of night’s brow, he’s evolved from a novice player with a horn to an insightful composer drafting life’s chronicle.
Originally from Austin, TX, Sly5thAve (aka Sylvester Uzoma Onyejiaka II) began his musical musings on the saxophone at the age of 11. His inspiration developed early in the enclaves of his church, where he often hung around after hours to play on the drum set, sing in the choir, or tinker with a lone piano’s keys. Self-taught, self-driven, and self-determined, Sly5thAve went onto study music at the University of North Texas, performing with numerous ensembles and earning feature roles on recordings like the Grammy-nominated “Lab 2009” with the One O’Clock Lab Band under the direction of Mr. Steve Wiest.
It was jazz first for Sly5thAve, who toted his passion to the East Coast where he spent a few years navigating the underground music circuit. More recently, an interest in his African origins brought him to new place in his career, and led him on a voyage home to Nigeria to honor his grandmother’s passing. The first wife of a town chief, his grandmother’s funeral entailed a week’s worth of music, masquerades, and the camaraderie of neighboring villages, a nonstop celebration reflecting the tenacity and range of Sly5thAve’s own sensibilities. It was that bravura that he decided to incorporate into his own art as he began to makes plans for his debut.
With the release of Akuma, his first album as a solo artist, Sly5thAve premieres a 12-track collective of dynamic jazz stories. It’s the reverberations of a tribesman echoing through a syncopated oral history, and an expression of the simplicity found in a grateful life. Produced by Brad Williams, Sly5thAve’s kind of jazz blends the slave dance of New Orleans, the Afro-beat of Fela Kuti, and the funk panache of James Brown with his own personal flair. He describes it like a Tarantino movie: the juxtaposition of volatility, surprise and ranging emotions. Songs like “Security” express frenzy, crowds, and the rush of a moment, while the spirit of his ancestors can be heard in a soloist’s resonance during “Prelude.” Other tracks such as “Road to Abuja” bring to life the trudge, march, and melodic banter of one’s final procession.
Time has been quite telling for Sly5thAve, and he intends to continue capitalizing on the day’s graces as he has in the past. To date, along with touring with Prince, he has had the chance to perform and/or record with a variety of great musicians such as Gladys Knight, The Dave Brubeck Quartet, James Carter, Keith Anderson, Sasha Allen, Charles Perry, Darrell Green, Wynton Marsalis, Maceo Parker, Jason Marsalis, Ellis Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Delfayo Marsalis, Brad Leali, Shelley Carrol, Quamon Fowler, Sene, Denitia, Phil Lassiter, Homeboy Sandman, Blu, Freddie Gibbs, Stockton Helbing, and Rob Lewis. He currently resides in Brooklyn, New York, where, in addition to releasing Akuma, he is working on other various horn performance pursuits. He is a resident musician/producer at The Clubhouse.
All said, for Sly5thAve, the playing field remains wide open.