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Palmer Releases Collaborations in Honor of Breonna Taylor

Victoria Wasylak • News • August 10, 2020

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Jazz trumpeter Jason Palmer — an assistant professor in the Ensemble Department at Berklee College of Music — has released more than a dozen instrumental duo tracks, with accompanying representative videos, in honor of Breonna Taylor. Taylor was an innocent EMT killed in March by Louisville, Kentucky, police executing a no-knock warrant on her home. Palmer’s trumpet collaboration videos are collected in a YouTube Playlist: Justice for Breonna Taylor Duos in Dedication.

Palmer was inspired by saxophonist John Ellis, who made a similar video to honor George Floyd, whose death by police violence has inspired protests and calls for racial justice around the world. “It’s the least I can do with what I believe is my calling at this time in my life in order to educate people on who Breonna is and the steps that need to be taken to ensure that her death is not in vain,” said Palmer.

To launch the project, Palmer sent out a call to friends and musicians he admires and several artists quickly responded about making contributions to accompany the solo track he had recorded. “There is a small melodic figure that represents each letter of her name,” said Palmer, explaining the concept. “She was shot eight times, so I did my best to leave eight seconds between each figure [for us] to play expressively. At the end, there is 26 seconds of space to improvise. She was 26 when she passed.”

Collaborators on the different versions of the track include Berklee faculty members, pianists Kevin Harris and Jason Yeager M.M. ’18, guitarist David Fiuczynski, and drummer Austin McMahon. Tracks also came in from musicians in various parts of the U.S.—California, New York, Washington, Louisiana—and around the world, including England, France, and the Netherlands. Contributors include saxophonists Caroline Davis, Noah Preminger, and John Ellis; bassists Max Ridley M.M. ’17, Edward Perez, Zack Lober, and Michael Janisch; drummer Tyson Jackson B.M. ’19; vocalist Rachel Bade-McMurphy; and pianist Carmen Staaf.

“I’m hoping this project will serve as a piece that can help in leaving the window open for systemic change to happen in Breonna’s case and throughout society,” said Palmer. “I’ve already had several people message me, thanking me for bringing attention to Breonna and carrying through by signing petitions, donating, etc., because they saw one of my collaborations.”

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