Harlem based collective Freelance is a band of independent leaders with an expansive sound and encyclopedic knowledge of musical genres that afford them the ability to cross-pollinate styles and manipulate melody to create an aesthetic signature uniquely their own. Influenced by the creative footprints of Mint Condition, Earth Wind and Fire, Stevie Wonder, Fela Kuti, Radiohead and Robert Glasper, founding leaders, Tim “Smithsoneon” Smith (vocals) and Chad “Ausar the Ambassador” Selph (keyboards) penned the forthcoming full-length debut album Yes Today, which is scheduled to be released May 11th on Revive Music. The thirteen-track album distilled from Freelance’s dynamic live performances is a lush, groove-dominant clinic in the power of seizing the moment that finds the band challenging listeners to take risks and embrace their passions. To avoid putting life off until tomorrow, and instead, say yes today.
Yes Today is rounded out by the innovative musical contributions of band members Craig Hill (saxophone), Yasser Tejeda (guitar), Justin Tyson (drums), and David “DJ” Ginyard (bass); the latter two comprise a powerful rhythm section renowned for excellence in the pocket. Tyson’s credits include Esperanza Spalding’s 77-hour Facebook live recording session for the limited-release Exposure album, performances with the Robert Glasper Experiment and membership in Glasper’s R+R=NOW supergroup. Ginyard’s credits include recording and touring with Solange, Grammy Award-winning artist Terence Blanchard’s E-Collective and Grammy Nominated artists The Baylor Project. The highly-anticipated album from Freelance also features contributions from harpist Brandee Younger on “First of All” and “Your Love.” Organist Mitch Henry is a featured contributor on “Around.” Trumpeter and band mentor Darren Barrett contributed to “Odyssey.” Both are featured on a number of other songs on Yes Today. With the exception of “Band Plays On,” which was mixed by Grammy Award-winning engineer Ben Kane, Yes Today was mixed by world-class producer and drummer Charles Haynes aka Chally Mikes. His acute understanding of the Freelance sound was the key ingredient necessary to propel the entire album forward.
“Freelance represents a lifestyle that I feel is trending amongst our generation more and more. It’s a lifestyle that allows you the freedom to take what you’re passionate about and create a career truly loving what you do. It’s a movement of entrepreneurs leaving the normative social influence in order to create their own possibilities around being authentic, fulfilled and empowering. So when people listen to our music we hope that they are inspired to realign themselves with their hopes and dreams and say “Yes” to them, because that’s how this album was created.” – Smithsoneon
The band’s resumes reflect a wide range of collaborations with established artists like Bilal, Lalah Hathaway, Pharoahe Monch, Estelle, Jason Lindner’s NOW VS NOW, James Hall, Jesse J, Kenny Garrett and Prince Royce. Their ambitions, however, make it nearly impossible for them to thrive exclusively in the side man role. Managing their own destinies is paramount to the members of Freelance. Each song on Yes Today is a demonstration of the band’s staggering versatility propelled by a hybridized mix of soul, electronic, jazz, alternative rock and fusion. The compositions align with the band’s do-it-yourself ethos to create an urgent call to action; Freelance’s decision to live and work as a collective of musical entrepreneurs has allowed them to create their own means of generating income and a working model for creative freedom designed to inspire others to pursue their passions and “Live Freelance.” As ambassadors for freedom in their careers, they are also advocates for equity and activism whose music incites joy as deftly as it addresses the issues of disparity and injustice. That progressive, intersectional approach to producing music is the philosophy that fueled the forthcoming release.
Almost a decade in the making, Yes Today is a collection of songs that speak to the evolution of Freelance and their myriad influences. The genre-defying collective lend their ideals and polychromatic musical aesthetic to the tasks of speaking truth to power, pushing the envelope with forward production and capturing the energy of their live shows on record. Funded by a Kickstarter campaign and revenue generated by the band, Yes Today found Freelance returning to their undergraduate stomping ground to record at the Herd Studio in Boston. Their first full album of original music, the thirteen-track project is a demonstration of the band’s versatility that combines feather light
arpeggios, booming percussive statements and triumphant fanfares with ease. Freelance chronicle their journey as musicians and black men with a debut that offers a uniquely beautiful take on life for people of color in modern American society; the evolution of the group is distilled into the biographical song “Odyssey” – one of the band’s first compositions – which reimagines Return To Forever and George Duke through the lens of 90s r&b. Though a soulful vamp or jazz inflected solo might be a tantalizing hook, the band’s ambidextrous nature makes it nearly impossible to pin them down. Yes Today is their multifaceted contribution to the trap and pop dominant lexicon of millennial black music. With it they challenge the popular narrative and travels leagues toward realizing their goal of making people “fall in love with the idea of a band again.”
Yes Today is also a spiritual reflection on the continued struggle for black liberation in the Americas and the relative freedom of the digital age, where access to different types of music, information and people is nearly unlimited, but basic human rights are scarce. Freelance combines candid lyricism with the electricity of their renowned stage show to create an immersive experience that inspires the revelry captured by lead single “Band Plays On” and unpacks societal failures, like their timely response to extrajudicial violence entitled “What We Fear”; the band’s examination of racism and xenophobia is populated by the monsters under our beds and capped by Smithsoneon’s palpably delicate refrain, “we create what we fear the most.” The song is the perfect precursor to the futurist, post-punk empowerment anthem “Why Wait,” which channels a Dilla joint and Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Really Care About Us.” Descending from a feverish crescendo into a gospel run, Smithsoneon invokes the ancestors and ruminates on the “We don’t die, We multiply” ethos of grassroots activist movements.
“There is no separating black music from the black struggle. Art reflects life, it’s only inevitable that our music will reflect our social issues. Music is God’s universal language. It has the incredible power to reunite and empower the African diaspora. We are greatly inspired by our ancestors and elders to continue the call to action for justice, musical integrity, pursuing your dreams, unity, love, higher vibrations and consciousness…but we want to do it OUR way!” – Ausar The Ambassador
“Around” is a smoldering ballad that references D’Angelo’s “Untitled.” The band spins the stylistic opposites into a shimmering blues about the peace inherent to the karmic process. The title track follows, closing the album with a play on the word “yesterday,” which pushes the definition and architecture of the word beyond its perpetual station in the past tense to embody the urgency of the present and the need to act – especially given of the brevity of life – on our respective passions and ideas. The song written from the perspective of a romantic relationship carries a universal message about life, the need to lead with love in all interactions, and the importance of living in the moment: “I know today love is gone, but I remember love yesterday. Say yes today to love.” Leading by example, the band does not wait for permission to take the baton from icons of the past or pursue their most pressing ideas. Instead they say yes, today, to an impossibly bright future and the task of leading the charge toward a new chapter in music. The time for waiting is over. Freelance has arrived. The time has come to say Yes Today.
On Friday, May 11th, Revive Music marks an historic expansion with the release of Yes Today. The independent label’s direct collaboration with Freelance will produce its first partnered release with the band. Since the launch of Revive Music’s imprint on Blue Note Records, the esteemed joint partnership produced a trio of releases including Otis Brown III’s The Thought of You, Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life and the ambitious Supreme Sonacy Vol. 1 compilation — a landmark release for Revive’s signature brand. With Marcus Strickland’s second album in works, Revive’s label philosophy and community have grown in recent years, fostering new partnerships and other creative endeavours that secure Revive’s legacy as the preeminent jazz and progressive music curator of this era.