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The cooperative trio 10³²K explores the musical legacy of Delta blues legend Skip James in Hard Time Killing Floor Suite—a multi-part suite conceived and performed by founding members Ku-umba Frank Lacy (trombone, flumpet, voice), Kevin Ray (bass), and Andrew Drury (drum set).
10³²K is known for high-energy live performance and an adventurous repertoire that includes John Coltrane’s Expression, Hale Smith’s Feather, and compositions by all three members of the trio Air. In this spirit, Hard Time Killing Floor Suite pays homage to Skip James’s oeuvre less by trying to reproduce its outward form than by dialoguing with it from a 21st century perspective, asking questions, engaging, prodding, dancing, and dreaming.
Skip James emerged from the sawmill towns and juke joints of the Mississippi Delta for a few days in 1931 to record for posterity eighteen of the deepest and most idiosyncratic blues and gospel tunes ever documented. Following the recording he returned to the Delta where before long he gave up music, disappearing from the outside world for the next 33 years. Discovered in a hospital in 1964 by three young blues enthusiasts from the East Coast, James was thrust into a limelight he hadn’t known existed and spent the last five years of his life as one of the most celebrated and enigmatic figures of the mid-60s folk/blues revival.
Unusual among early blues artists, James played both guitar and piano, doing so with unparalleled inventiveness and in virtuosic counterpoint to his vocals. His high falsetto singing voice combined with droning ostinatos, rhythmic power, and quirky instrumental embellishments to imbue his songs with an arresting, otherworldly quality often described as “haunting” or “forlorn.” Eschewing chordal instruments, 10³²K deploys trombone/flumpet, bass, drums, and vocals to re-examine the material of Skip James’s musical legacy—reworking, at times stretching, at times compressing, and shining light on its facets from a variety of angles.
A Lincoln Center commission