Samora Pinderhughes lives in a constant state of metamorphosis. Five years after his Transformation Suite, this brilliant pianist and singer-songwriter is ready to burst out of his latest cocoon with Venus.
Pinderhughes says the name refers not to the planet but rather a line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet — “Venus smiles not in the house of tears” — that sets the bloom of love against the weight of tragedy.
In March of 2018, The Checkout caught an early taste of Venus in our performance studio. The following summer we proudly presented this music in concert at (Le) Poisson Rouge.
Here is a video from that evening, featuring Pinderhughes with his creative co-partner, drummer Jack DeBoe. The song is titled “Gatsby,” and as Pinderhughes explains in his introduction, “It’s about how fake everybody is.”
Pinderhughes made this music while juggling other commitments: notably with rapper Common and the collective August Greene. The social consciousness in those projects is a shared value for him; he dedicates a ballad called “For Those Lost” to the memory of Sandra Bland, a victim of police violence.
Activism and music have always been in tandem for Pinderhughes, who was born in the Bay Area and trained in part at Juilliard. The way he combines protest music with community organizing caught the ear of another noted interdisciplinarian, pianist Vijay Iyer, who is guiding Pinderhughes through his PhD in Creative Practice and Critical Inquiry at Harvard.
As if that weren’t enough for the 28-year-old pianist, there’s also the Healing Project, a forthcoming effort Pinderhughes describes as a musical and visual experiment to take on the “daily reality of violence, incarceration, policing, and detention across communities across the United States.” Giving a voice to America’s voiceless in a fight for equality is the subject of “Hold That Weight.”
As you’ll hear in this podcast, Pinderhughes manages to tread lightly, even with all this heavy lifting. He’s clearly an artist different from the rest, who is also keen on making a difference.
Samora Pinderhughes: keys and vocals
Jack DeBoe: co-producer and drummer
Andrew Renfroe: guitar
Maya Kronfeld: keys
Josh Hari: electric bass
Niya Norwood: vocals
Jasmine Surillo: vocals
Recorded on July 19th, 2018 at Le Possion Rouge in New York City.
Producer: Simon Rentner
Video Producer: Corey Goldberg
Videographers: Corey Goldberg, Chris Tobin, David Tallacksen and Anthony Nieves
Concert Audio Mix: David Tallacksen