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1800 Tequila and Billboard Present: The Refined Players

Episode 1 - The Heart

“The idea of genre is antiquated, any time you try to use a word like Jazz or Hip-Hop to try and define what you’re doing you’re probably doing a disservice to it” - Christian Scott

To some, the concept of defining music by the characteristics of a specific genre is archaic.  On the one hand, the idea of genre is a way to easily classify the infinite forms that music can take, but on the other, those same classifications can restrict, limit and stunt the progression of an artist who believes he or she needs to be confined within a genre’s traditional boundaries.  

This is where the Refined Players Series makes its grand entrance.

In association with Billboard and 1800 Tequila, New Orleanian trumpeter, composer and producer Christian Scott hit the road to assemble disparate artists and sounds from across the US.

The aim? To further break down the barrier between jazz and hip-hop whilst marrying cultures, techniques, styles, beats, rhythms and personalities.

Follow Christian on the first leg of his trip as he takes to the streets of his native city New Orleans and paints a vivid picture of his musical background and the Black Indian tradition in which he was raised.

Episode 2 -  The Rhythm

“The moment that two minds can come together from two different backgrounds to create a new sound is the key to unlocking what music has to offer.”

It’s important that Christian starts by establishing the rhythm of the band; that section will lay the foundation for the elements to come.

Rhythm is the heart of jazz music and jazz music is the heart of New Orleans, so it’s only natural that Christian calls upon his hometown’s talent to set the stage; in comes Joe Dyson and Weedie Braimah.   

Joe has been playing drums in his family’s church since the moment he could walk.  Weedie prides himself on bringing generations of charismatic West African drumming heritage to the music by way of his Djembe drum.

The first two Refined Players are rhythmic forces to be reckoned with and episode two is their story.  

Episode 3 - The Soul

“Soul is the most important component to music… to me, when I think of what that means, it’s really honesty.”

Episode three of the Refined Players Series follows Christian as he travels to two more of America’s musical cornerstones- Philadelphia and New York -  in search of the final three members who will comprise the Soul of the band.

First up on this final leg of Christian’s recruiting is Philadelphia - where Christian says the people emit soul. This is more than apparent in bassist, composer and producer, Derek Hodge, who is excited to refine this new sound with Christian and the others.

After his time in Philadelphia, Christian is off to New York where he meets with Keyboardist, Joe Harley and Flutist, Elena Pinderhughes.  The former, taught himself to play during an eight year stint in the Air Force while the latter brings an eclectic musical background incorporating everything from Latin American culture to jazz, hip-hop and African influences. 

Episode 4 - The Refinement

“As you grow as an artist and you experiment and you try things it’s important not to lose the genesis and the heart of the music.”

In the second to last Refined Players episode, Christian brings the band together for the first time to vibe with one another and put sound to all the things they’ve been thinking through and talking about - all outside the parameters of a single genre.

In the midst of workshopping this new composition, Christian introduces a special guest: a decorated emcee who’ll serve as the band’s lead vocalist and verbalize the passion and emotion that the Refined Players have now brought to the table.

Episode 5 - The Work

“Nerves before a show is a real thing; when you get up there they’re going to be mistakes, especially in Jazz. If you’re doing it right, the idea is to take something that’s raw and trying to refine it as much as possible in real time”

The day has arrived. Christian, Vic Mensa and the band head back to where it all began - New Orleans - for their live performance at the storied Preservation Hall.

There couldn’t be a more appropriate space for the live show as they aim to bring a new sound to one of Jazz music’s most historic venues.

The band’s front man Christian Scott put it best, “This is a group that was put together with the intention of bringing cultures together and taking what was raw and refining it to create a new space.”

In the final episode of the series we get to see that new space manifest in real time; you followed the journey, now hear the finished product of The Refined Players...

You can listen to ‘Freedom is a Word’ by Christian Scott, Vic Mensa, and the Refined Players below