Brandee Younger

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Harpist Brandee Younger is a virtuoso performer whose genre-crossing style incorporates jazz, classical, soul, and funk traditions. Building upon the influence of artists like Alice Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby, Younger garnered acclaim for albums like 2014′s The Brandee Younger 4tet, 2016′s Wax & Wane, and 2019′s Soul Awakening. Along with tours as a member of drummer Makaya McCraven’s band, she has contributed to a mix of projects by artists like Common, Jeremy Pelt, Alessia Cara, Drake, and more. She gained wider attention with her sixth album, 2021′s Somewhere Different, which included “Beautiful Is Black,” a track that made her the first Black woman to be nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition. Brand New Life arrived in 2023, with guest spots by Mumu Fresh and Meshell N’degeocello.
Born in 1982 in Hempstead, New York, Younger studied harp from a young age and eventually earned undergraduate degrees in both Harp Performance and Music Business from The Hartt School at the University of Hartford. There, she focused on jazz, working with esteemed alto saxophonist Jackie McLean. She then earned her graduate degree from New York University, during which time she collaborated with saxophonist Ravi Coltrane on a concert series honoring his late mother, pianist and harpist Alice Coltrane. In 2011, she made her debut as leader with Prelude, which featured her group with bassist Dezron Douglas, drummer E.J. Strickland, and vocalist Niia. More albums followed, including 2014′s The Brandee Younger 4tet and 2016′s Wax & Wane. She also tours as a member of drummer Makaya McCraven’s band and has worked on projects with artists like Common, Drake, Jeremy Pelt, Alessia Cara, John Legend, and Ryan Leslie, among others.
Along with performing, Younger is active in education, having taught at New York University, The New School College of Performing Arts, Adelphi University, The Hartt School Community Division at the University of Hartford, and other institutions. In 2019, Younger released Soul Awakening, an ambitious artistic statement that again found her working alongside Douglas, Strickland, and Niia. It also featured guest contributions by saxophonists Stacy Dillard and Chelsea Baratz, Antoine Roney, and Ravi Coltrane, as well as trumpeters Freddie Hendrix and Sean Jones. Younger and Douglas also duetted on 2020′s Force Majeure.
In 2021, she released her sixth album, the stylistically expansive Somewhere Different. Once again influenced by fusion jazz, Latin, dlassical, and R&B traditions, the album featured appearances by bassist Rashaan Carter, drummer Allan Mednard, trumpeter Maurice Brown, and legendary bassist Ron Carter, among others. Included on the album was the track “Beautiful Is Black,” which earned a Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Composition. Another genre-bending jazz- and hip-hop-infused production, Brand New Life appeared in 2023 and featured contributions by Mumu Fresh, Meshell N’degeocello, and Pete Rock. ~ Matt Collar