featured image: photo by Meron Menghistab
FEATURING JULIAN LAGE, AMBROSE AKINMUSIRE, IMMANUEL WILKINS, JOEL ROSS, JULIUS RODRIGUEZ, AROOJ AFTAB & OTHERS
Cautious Clay has released his Blue Note debut KARPEH, a deeply personal new album which finds the singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer also known as Joshua Karpeh taking a giant artistic leap forward with an ambitious yet introspective song cycle about growth, conceptions of intimacy, and lineage that reveals a new side of his artistry by delving deeper than ever into his jazz roots. Following his performance at the Newport Jazz Festival, Cautious made a headline appearance at SummerStage in New York City’s Central Park this Saturday, August 19.
Across the album’s 15 tracks Cautious can be heard on vocals, flute, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, guitar, synthesizer, and bass. He also invites a wide range of collaborators into the fold including leading lights of the modern jazz world including guitarist Julian Lage, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, vibraphonist Joel Ross, keyboardist Julius Rodriguez, bassist Joshua Crumbly, and drummer Sean Rickman. Other guests on the album include his uncle, bassist Kai Eckhardt, and the acclaimed Pakistani vocalist Arooj Aftab.
For all of Cautious’ dexterity around multiple instruments, it’s always in service of the music’s narratives. “I wanted it to be musical for the sake of telling a story,” he explains. “Throughout this album, I am equating my life’s journey to an amalgamation of my family’s past life experiences, an exploration of my present, and how those pieces will influence by future.”
Cautious sequenced the album thematically in three sections with interludes throughout containing audio recordings of his relatives recounting bits of family history. The first section he calls “The Past Explained” with songs that touch upon his early experiences growing up in Cleveland including the album’s lead single “Ohio.” The middle section of the album is what Cautious calls “The Honeymoon of Exploration.” These five songs depict some of his experiences with psychedelics, which inspired self-reflection and the desire for deeper forms of intimacy with others. The concluding four songs constitute the third thematic section, which Cautious calls “A Bitter & Sweet Solitude.” Cautious posits that when we allow ourselves to spend quality time in solitude it enables us to forge better relationships with ourselves and others, therefore sparking deeper intimacy.
The track listing for KARPEH is as follows:
1. 102 Years of Comedy (Intro)
4. Karpehs Don’t Flinch
5. The Tide Is My Witness
6. Take a Half (a Feeling We Chase)
7. Another Half (with Julian Lage)
8. Repeat Myself
9. Glass Face (with Kai Eckhardt & Arooj Aftab)
10. Walls & a Roof (Interlude)
11. Unfinished House (with Julian Lage)
12. Blue Lips (with Julian Lage)
13. Tears of Fate
14. Yesterday’s Price (with Immanuel Wilkins and Ambrose Akinmusire)
15. Moments Stolen
Since 2017, Cautious Clay has been steadily building a devoted fanbase with his heartfelt songwriting and a unique sound that moves fluidly between pop, alternative R&B, and indie rock. He began receiving wide recognition with the 2018 release of Blood Type featuring the breakthrough single “Cold War,” a naked call for emotional honesty and transparency that resonated deeply with listeners and has since been streamed more than 150 million times. The song was featured on Issa Rae’s hit HBO TV show, Insecure, and Olivia Wilde’s movie, Booksmart, and was interpolated by Taylor Swift and Jack Antonoff on “London Boy” from the pop star’s album Lover. Cautious’ other outside writing and production credits include working with Billie Eilish, John Mayer, John Legend, Khalid, Kavinsky, Melanie Martinez, Remi Wolf, and more. Following two more EPs—Resonance and Table of Context—Cautious released his debut full-length, Deadpan Love in 2021, delivering on his early promise with an album that centered on the balance between oneself and others. With his Blue Note debut KARPEH, Cautious Clay offers an even more intimate glimpse inside his highly biographical artistic vision.
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