A poignant masterpiece for the revolutionary soundtrack of 2020, "Say Their Names" (Release Date: December 11, 2020) brings together an acclaimed roster of roots creators and contemporary jazz artists for an idiosyncratic four-movement composition urgently calling for social justice. "Say Their Names" features Rastafarian vocalist Cedric Myton (singer of Jamaica's legendary roots reggae band The Congos), jazz scat vocal improvisations from Maiya Sykes (Macy Gray, Michael Bublé), pianist Ruslan Sirota (Stanley Clarke Band), saxophonist Katisse Buckingham (Dr. Dre, Herbie Hancock), bassist Benjamin Shepherd (Kendrick Lamar, Chance The Rapper), and Latin GRAMMY-winning percussionist Diego Álvarez Muñoz. Los Angeles producer Ethan Sultry composed and arranged "Say Their Names." The piece is mixed by engineer Dave O'Donnell and mastered by Paul Blakemore.
"Say Their Names" protests against the senseless police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other black men and women. The arrangement for "Say Their Names" reflects the cycle of the Black Lives Matter marches in Los Angeles (June 2020) following the death of George Floyd. The pulse of the composition emulates marching, blocking intersections while taking a knee, taking a breath of air, and marching again. "Say Their Names" ignites with the chant, "Something's not right I fear, people gone who should be here, I don't feel okay today, so I'll march and say their names."
A blast of avant-garde jazz sets into motion the three-minute stunner with roots reggae pioneer Cedric Myton and modern jazz/R&B singer Maiya Sykes interchanging vocals. Protest jazz of the 1960s and 1970s serves as a foundation for "Say Their Names" while paying respect to roots artists who've paved the way for reggae becoming an international phenomenon. At the heart of roots music is a raw sense of freedom and joy that exists amid extremely challenging circumstances. "Say Their Names" spotlights one of reggae's earliest stalwarts with Myton on lead vocals as Ethan Sultry conducts a kaleidoscope of improvisations for the all-star band to explore. Ethan is no stranger to the art form as a mainstay guitarist/vocalist on the Los Angeles jazz scene with performing/recording/producing credits to his name with the likes of Macy Gray, Jimmy Haslip (Yellowjackets), Munyungo Jackson (Miles Davis), Gary Novak (Chick Corea), Chano Domínguez, and others.
"I knew the composition needed a spiritual guide who held ancient truths, one who has experienced real artistic rebellion," says Ethan Sultry. "While visiting Papa Michigan at Mixing Lab Studio in Jamaica, I heard the unforgettable falsetto of Cedric Myton. He blew me away. During the LA protests, I marched downtown. Macy Gray and I had previously begun to talk about collaborating on something and so immediately I reached out to her. I was hoping she'd sing the song, but our schedules didn't align so we ultimately connected to raise awareness for her new non-profit MyGood. Subsequently, Cedric came to mind, and he recorded his takes out of Tuff Gong Studio. 'Say Their Names' really took off from there."
Macy Gray adds, "When you take a chance like Ethan and produce protest records, it's daring and risky but it's beautiful because there's been a lot of horrific things happening for a long time. It's inspiring when artists take a chance, it makes you want to do better. MyGood supports families of these tragedies by helping to cover their medical bills and costs for mental health services. It's heart-shattering what's happening, and we are here to help the families that are suffering the most."
Founded by Macy Gray in July 2020, MyGood is an effort to bring some good to families who have lost loved ones due to police violence. Regardless of the circumstances that end a life through contact with the police, the effect on the families is devastating - emotionally, mentally, physically, and financially. MyGood is NOT an anti-police organization. MyGood is here to do as much as they can for grieving families. To donate and find out more information, please visit mygood.org.
Cover artwork for "Say Their Names" is a concept by Toons One, a Los Angeles graffiti art master and original in the L.A. street mural scene. Toons One conceptualized the visual drawing in pencil, and it was then colored by Allen Passalaqua of DC comics.