MAE.SUN | “Vol. 2: Into the Flow”
MAE.SUN Reemerges with Vol. 2: Into the Flow
With MAE.SUN’s New Album, Hailey Niswanger
Sheds Fears, Anxieties, & Stigmas, While Submitting
to Her Predestined Life & Allowing the Natural
Flow Dictate Direction of Her Music
When the acclaimed saxophonist, flutist and composer Hailey Niswanger talks about forming her mindful and fiery electric band, MAE.SUN, whose new album is Vol. 2: Into the Flow, she returns often to ideas of transformation, gratitude and unity. “I felt like I finally stepped into a new version of myself that was 100-percent authentic and free,” she says. “MAE.SUN really feels like I’m fulfilling my potential and my purpose.”
Reflecting her middle name, Mae, and Sun, the “second heart that connects all life,” the group’s concept extended from her studies of Zen Master Thích Nhât Hanh, a revered spiritual leader and peace activist. MAE.SUN’s 2017 debut, Vol. 1: Inter-be, was an inspired exploration of her newfound consciousness—a prayer for peace and a wish that all of humanity could discover its oneness. As DownBeat commented in its rave review, “[L]istening all the way through [serves] as a compelling guide for meditation.”
Vol. 2: Into the Flow is the result of Niswanger’s consciousness being tested by the unavoidable trials of life. In the midst of profound personal, spiritual and even geographical life changes—earlier this year, she relocated to L.A. after years on the Brooklyn scene—she began a deep inward search. “I finally started being able to see myself for me,” she says. As a person and an artist, she worked toward a place where she could “release into this idea that your life is set for you—that we chose our lives before we got here,” she explains. “You have your own flow that you need to give in to.”
Submitting to that natural, inevitable flow, she was reminded “to not give in to the pressures of society, by getting caught up in fears, anxieties and stigmas that can hold us back.” That notion of flow all but defines music as well—a positive force that moves into its creators and cycles back out into the atmosphere.
As with Inter-be, Niswanger designed Into the Flow to be experienced best in one uninterrupted listen, and she’s aided in this mission by a genre-bending band she feels honored to helm. The lineup includes Niswanger on soprano saxophone and flute, vibraphonist Nikara Warren, guitarist Andrew Renfroe, keyboardist Axel Laugart, bassist Aaron Liao and drummer David Frazier Jr, with Jake Sherman on additional synths. Sonically, Into the Flow is MAE.SUN’s boldest project yet, and fans of fusion’s ’60s and ’70s heyday will appreciate the often-wild, evocative timbres she achieves through electronics. Overseeing production, mixing and mastering, Drew Ofthe Drew has designed an ensemble sound that is at once psychedelic and focused, expansive and crisp.
In addition to her contributions as a player, composer and leader, Niswanger further explores her passion and skill as a vocalist, singing background and, on the track “Cycle,” lead. “Singing for people has been exhilarating—and scary,” she says. “But I’ve wanted that, because music started getting really comfortable for me. I’m used to getting up on a stage with a saxophone; using your vocal cords brings in a new challenge.”
Into the Flow also features two special guest vocalists whom Niswanger considers heroes and friends. Amber Navran, of the Los Angeles-based soul trio Moonchild, appears on “Bond,” an affirmative blend of sultry modern R&B and dynamic jazz interplay. Australian-born, Brooklyn-based Kate K-S brings her sweet, sandy voice to the grooves of “Ascension.” Elsewhere, she and the band elevate her writing, which is fascinating yet accessible and another invaluable part of her mission to unify. “What can the majority of humanity connect to?” she asked herself during the composition process.
“You go back and listen to sounds that have been around for centuries, like African music,” she answers. “It’s a groove, a feeling that everyone around, whether they’re musically inclined or not, can connect with.” MAE.SUN’s sound, from the cosmic opener, “Awaken,” to the fierce drum-and-bass of the closer, “Free,” melds blazing improvisation with an all-embracing stylistic palette.
About Hailey Niswanger
Still just 29, Hailey Niswanger has nonetheless already experienced a rich and full life in music, making her arrival at Into the Flow all the more profound. She was born in Houston, raised in Portland, Oregon, and later moved east to study at the prestigious Berklee College of Music on a full scholarship. In 2010, she was chosen for the inaugural class of Berklee’s Global Jazz Institute under the artistic direction of pianist Danilo Pérez. She’s collaborated onstage with Esperanza Spalding, Terri Lyne Carrington, Michael Wolff and Mike Clark, Ralph Peterson Jr., the Soul Rebels Brass Band, the Either/Orchestra and other luminaries, and performed at some of the jazz world’s most esteemed venues and events, including the Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival, the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York, Smalls Jazz Club, the Portland Jazz Festival and the Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival. In the pop realm, she performed with Demi Lovato on Saturday Night Live and Sleigh Bells on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and the Late Show with David Letterman. Currently she tours with electronic musician Louis Futon, and recently performed at Red Rocks Amphitheater.
Her debut as a bandleader, 2009’s Confeddie, experienced phenomenal success for a jazz album—especially a self-produced and self-released project. In the Wall Street Journal, legendary jazz critic Nat Hentoff called it “a work with the joyous feeling of the first day of spring”; it went on to become the No. 2 most-downloaded jazz album at Amazon.com, and debuted the following week at No. 13 on the Billboard Jazz Albums Chart. Prior to forming MAE.SUN, Niswanger released two other buzzed-about discs, 2012’s The Keeper and 2015’s PDX Soul, which earned her an interview on NPR.
A handful of years later, and following those deep personal and spiritual breakthroughs, Niswanger’s outlook brims with gratitude. “I’m just really honored to play music,” she says. “Hopefully I can reach people in a way that will connect us more and bring relief to those who need it.”
MAE.SUN · Vol. 2: Into the Flow
Release Date: November 1, 2019
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