Joey DeFrancesco | “In The Key Of The Universe” | Available March 1 via Mack Avenue Records
Master Organist Joey DeFrancesco to Release
Adventurous New Album In The Key Of The Universe,
March 1 on Mack Avenue Records
Album Features Pharoah Sanders,
Troy Roberts, Billy Hart & Sammy Figueroa
Celebrates 30th Anniversary of DeFrancesco’s Debut Album
& 50th Anniversary of “The Creator Has A Master Plan”
Read Album Announcement & Listen to First Single
“Inner Being” Exclusively on WBGO.org
As he’s made abundantly clear over the past 30 years, Joey DeFrancesco has plenty of soul. What most listeners probably haven’t spent much time pondering is that soul’s place in the universe. On his adventurous new album, In The Key Of The Universe, the master organist turns his musical attentions to his spiritual side, tapping into a strain of metaphysical jazz that’s fueled sonic searchers for more than half a century. Joey D calls upon disciples and missionaries of jazz to join him in paving the way to enlightenment.
In The Key Of The Universe, due out March 1 via Mack Avenue Records and available for pre-order now, arrives almost exactly 50 years after the release of Karma, the landmark album by legendary saxophonist Pharoah Sanders. One of the primary exponents of spiritually-oriented jazz, Sanders makes three guest appearances on the album, including an update of his best-known track from Karma, the cosmically influential “The Creator Has A Master Plan.” Playing drums on that track was the great Billy Hart, who reunites with Sanders as well as DeFrancesco, with whom he’s worked several times over the years since joining the organist for his 1989 album Where WERE You?
Hart makes up part of the core band for In The Key Of The Universe along with percussion virtuosoSammy Figueroa, another Where WERE You? alum who has played with almost literally everyone over the years, from Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins to David Bowie and Patti Smith to Mariah Carey and Diana Ross. The multi-talented saxophonist Troy Roberts, a frequent collaborator in recent years, shows off his skills on tenor, soprano, alto, and even the acoustic bass. At the center of it all is the always scintillating organ work of DeFrancesco, who retains his trademark robust swing and gritty funk while striking out in freer, more exploratory directions.
An artist who’s always been deeply attuned to the full history of jazz and able to tap into it in innovative ways, DeFrancesco naturally feels a profound connection to the questing, devotional jazz of forebears from Sanders to John Coltrane to John McLaughlin. It may seem like a change in direction, but unexpected travels into new territory has been a central tenet of DeFrancesco’s music throughout his remarkable career.
“I pride myself on being a musical chameleon,” the organist explains. “There’s so much good music that it’s hard to stay in one place, at least for me. I love being able to go in any direction, and lately that’s sent my music in a more free jazz direction – but still with a groove.”
That adaptability is something that DeFrancesco also recognized in Pharoah Sanders, whose own work has long delved into myriad stylistic approaches. But for In The Key Of The Universe, DeFrancesco wanted the sax giant to tap into that spiritual vein that so memorably flows through his distinctive sound. “Pharoah is one of the go-to guys when it comes to that spiritual aspect of the music,” he says. “A lot of people do that kind of thing, but I like to go directly to the source, and he really is the source.”