Percolating, stimulating and motor- booty activatin’ are ways to rightfully describe the infectious music found on Aaron Whitby’s debut album as a bandleader. After proper dues-paying decades as a supportive keyboardist, arranger, co-writer, and studio cohort for a gang of noteworthy artists—George Clinton, Randy Brecker, Lisa Fischer, his brilliant life- partner Martha Redbone among them—Whitby emerges on Cousin From Another Planet as a musician of compositional range and depth and fecund instrumental prowess in his own right.
The album’s rumprollin’ opener Sleeping Giant, grooves with intentions slinky and bulbous, not least thanks to the mucho phat and Mutronically enhanced bass work of longtime colleague and collaborator Fred Cash—a low end specialist of well-known invention and bumptiousness. Whitby serves us the album’s big picture in bite size portions here —a funk-da-fied jam session feel undergirding tight, knotty jazz-smart progressions. In a positive and confident show of roots Whitby also revises Herbie Hancock’s modern classic of graceful angularity and stomp, Eye of The Hurricane. His re-interpretive take fuses VSOP and Headhunters Herbie into a recombinant funky freebopping whole. This jawn rides on the nimble bass handles of Jerome Harris, a veteran wrangler of complex changes. Whitby’s arrangement also generates ample room for saxophonist Keith Loftis, violinist Charles Burnham and drummer Rodney Holmes to steam, sear and shred the walls of the place. The album’s title track pays homage to John Styles Afrofuturist film classic ‘Brother From Another Planet’ while lyrically enfolding Whitby’s sense of himself as an immigrant, radical fellow traveler and musical messenger on a righteous mission—artistic engagement in justice work within his core adopted, embracing communities, Black and indigenous America. Whitby gives us his most ebullient and house-rocking acoustic piano work on ‘Cousin’—an artful lesson in jabbing economy and abstract butt-smack. The engaging journey here also includes Walking With Z (re Whitby’s beloved tween son Zach), a rollicking admixture of Ellingtonian romanticism and roadhouse earthquake. Burnham’s wah-wah fiddling shines in the cut and a flurry of tender mercies roll out from under of the fingers of the leader in loving dad mode. We’d also direct your attention to the collection’s closer, Escape Route which drives through percussive rhythm changes redolent of the best 70s fusion and prog—a time in music massively inspiring to those of Whitby (and this writer’s) generation—and gives welcome rise to a signature Fender Rhodes excursion by Whitby that leaves us begging for more.
With its well divvied up collages of serious, compositional construction and lowdown improvisational bravura, Whitby’s Cousin From Another Planet joins the ranks of this era’s hardiest re-dedications and festival-tent revival of soulful and exploratory jam-gnocity. May this music circuitously surge its backsliding way up and down your gluteus and into your oblongata again and again.
Aaron Whitby is an award-winning record producer, composer/songwriter, pianist, engineer and educator born and raised in London, England, and a longtime resident of Brooklyn, New York.
With Cousin From Another Planet his debut album as frontman, Whitby comes full circle to his jazz and funk roots pulling together an amazing cast of friends to realize his musical vision, as described by renowned music writer Greg Tate, of “a funk-da-fied jam session feel undergirding tight, knotty jazz-smart progressions”. With tunes inspired by the animated energy and profound innocence of his young son, humorous lyrics that celebrate empathy and empowerment and musicians given the freedom to take the music wherever it feels good, according to Tate, this album is “one of this era’s hardiest re-dedications and festival-tent revival of soulful and exploratory jam-gnocity.” Cousin From Another Planet live onstage is a music and visual experience accompanied with video art by VJ Lady Firefly (Dave Chappelle, The Roots) to capture the colorful, cartoonish and movement-inspired worldview.
Whitby is best known for his work with longtime collaborator Martha Redbone, the acclaimed Native/African-American songstress with whom he created the music genre ‘Native American Soul’ and subsequently took poet William Blake to Appalachia. The singles and albums they co-wrote/co-produced include notably; “Home of the Brave”, “Skintalk” and “The Garden of Love – Songs of William Blake” have received numerous awards and critical acclaim. Currently the team have created and tour “Bone Hill- The Concert”, a devised, multi-disciplinary theatrical concert originally commissioned by Joe’s Pub and The Public Theater. Whitby and Redbone are recipients of the NEFA NTP Award and an NPN Creation Fund Award, and are currently developing a new musical commissioned by the Public Theater in NYC supported in part by MAP Fund and Creative Capital.
Mentored by Ohio Player/Funkadelic Walter ‘Junie’ Morrison, Whitby has recorded with; Natalie Cole for her Grammy-winning single “Livin' for Love”, George Clinton, Randy Brecker, Neil Sedaka, Scott English, Lisa Fischer, Tony Trischka, John McEuen, Raul Midon, David Amram, Alex Bugnon, Rodney Holmes, Harvey Goldberg, Snehasish Mozumder, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Jonathan Spottiswoode, Keith Secola among many others. Whitby has performed with; Nona Hendryx, Brian Jackson, Vernon Reid of Living Colour, Ben Sollee, Sandra St Victor, Mino Cinelu, Brooklyn Raga Massive, Mary Fahl, R. Carlos Nakai and Jojo Kuo among others. Whitby is also Musical Director for Martha Redbone which features a roll call of NYC’s finest including Fred Cash, Alan AB Burroughs, Charlie Burnham, Marvin Sewell, Tony Mason, Mike Campbell, Toby Williams, Rocky Bryant, Kevin Johnson, Keith Fluitt, Jerome Harris, Zach Brock, Robin Macatangay, Ron Jenkins, Abe Fogle, Gene Lake, Daniel Sadownick, Skoota Waner, Adrian Harpham, Eddie Allen, Keith Loftis, Ada Rovatti, Mazz Swift, Tim Luntzel and Gary Foote. Performances with Voices of a People’s History in NYC have brought Whitby to the stage alongside notable actors Frances McDormand, Marisa Tomei, Maggie Gyllenhall, Aasif Mandvi, Viggo Mortensen, music performers Talib Kweli, Stew and Heidi and poet Stacey Ann Chin. Whitby’s theatrical commissions include composer for New York Theater Workshop “The Plurality of Privacy”, Gung Ho Theater Company, “Flood in the Valley”, a collaboration in Sichuan, China with an indigenous theater company of the Yi Minority (Nuosu People) and Rachel Chavkin’s “Primer for a Failed Superpower”.
Whitby is a dedicated music educator specializing in group work. He has given workshops at numerous universities and been a visiting teaching artist at grade schools in both NYC and London, England.
released June 21, 2019
Charlie Burnham – Violin, Vocal on “Mrs Quadrillion”
Fred Cash – Electric Bass
Gary Fritz – Percussion
Jerome Harris – Acoustic Bass on “The Invisible Man Breathes” and “The Eye of the Hurricane 2.0”
Rodney Holmes – Drums
Keith Loftis – Tenor Saxophone
Aaron Whitby – Piano, Fender Rhodes, Synthesizers, Vocal FX
Special Guest Vocalists;
Lisa Fischer - “Cousin From Another Planet”
Tamar-kali - “Sleeping Giant”
Rome Neal - “Sleeping Giant”
Martha Redbone - “Cousin From Another Planet”, “Make Somebody Happy” and “Sleeping Giant”
All compositions by Aaron Whitby
except "The Eye of the Hurricane 2.0" by Herbie Hancock
Band recorded by Rodney Holmes and Aaron Whitby
at Electric Wildlife Studio, Lehigh Valley, PA
Overdubs recorded by Aaron Whitby
at Navy Yards Studio, Brooklyn, NY
Piano recorded by Roman Klun
at Innsbruck Studios assisted by Khaled Jean, Brooklyn, NY
Produced by Aaron Whitby for Blackfeet Productions
Mixed by Nicholas Sevilla
at Sevilla Sound Services, Lake Arrowhead, CA
Mastered by Steve Vavagiakis
at Bang Zoom Productions, Blauvelt, NY
Cover Photo: Michael Weintrob
Cover Design: Chris Ritchie/COA Design