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The Pulse: With 'Generations,' The Baylor Project Broadens Their Musical Frame

Marcus and Jean Baylor of The Baylor Project, whose new album is 'Generations.'
courtesy of the artist
Marcus and Jean Baylor of The Baylor Project, whose new album is 'Generations.'

When Marcus Baylor presented his wife Jean with idea of collaboration, she had a healthy amount of trepidation about the appeal of a drum-and-vocal duo. Two albums and three Grammy nominations later, it's safe to say they're on to something here.

Individually, they have garnered respect industry-wide. Marcus was a former member of the Grammy-winning group The Yellowjackets, and has performed and recorded with heavyweights like Cassandra Wilson, John Scofield and Kenny Garrett. Jean is responsible for inspiring many of my childhood car ride karaoke sessions as one half of the platinum-selling duo Zhané with Temple University classmate Renée Neufville.

Now the Baylors have been married for almost 20 years and continue to collaborate in life and in music. They call their label, Be a Light, a "labor of love." They’re involved in every aspect of the creative process, from production to the packaging and shipping of their albums. Their debut album, The Journey, was met with critical acclaim and Grammy nominations in both jazz and R&B categories. Over the course of the pandemic, they managed to garner yet another nomination for their challenge anthem Sit On Down. They continue to forge ahead, as Marcus was just appointed as a Grammy Trustee, and Jean as a Governor.

The Baylor Project's latest release, Generations, was a work nearly three years in the making. It is the culmination of not just their artistic mastery, but a synergistic soundscape that merges jazz, blues and the spiritual. It simultaneously feels like ancestral recall and a forecast of things to come; at its core, Generations is the very definition of Sankofa. The album brings together path-builders like Kenny Garrett and Dianne Reeves with torchbearers like Jazzmeia Horn, Jamison Ross and Sullivan Fortner. And the Baylors stock their band with the likes of pianist Shedrick Mitchell, bassists Dezron Douglas and Ben Williams, and harpist Brandee Younger.

On this special Black Music Month edition of The Pulse, we discuss how their individual careers lead them to creatively join forces; the divine timing of Generations; and the keys that continue to make their union thrive both personally and professionally.

Keanna Faircloth is a Washington, DC native and comes to WBGO getting her start on-air at WPFW 89.3 FM in 2003, most recently as the host of Late Night Jazz: The Continuum Experience. She is a graduate of Howard University having majored in Music History with a minor in Classical Piano. Keanna has written for NPR Music, and worked for Radio One as an on-air personality, producer and voice-over talent. She is also the creator and host of Artimacy Podcast, where she has interviewed artists like Wynton Marsalis, Matthew Whitaker, Jonathan Butler, and Dionne Warwick. As a result, she was recognized by Radio Ink Magazine as a 2019 African American leader in radio.