Vincent Herring: It’s the theme of the times that we’re going through: Video

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With Hard Times, his third release for Smoke Sessions Records, master saxophonist Vincent Herring offers a musical response to our troubled political climate. Over the course of 11 songs, he and his band rely on the age-old structures of swing and blues to craft a modern message of healing and progress. 

Due out Nov. 3, Hard Times finds Herring at the helm of a crack quartet, with pianist Cyrus Chestnut, bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Carl Allen. The saxophonist’s conception of the project evolved during a six-month residency at the jazz venue Smoke, in which he was joined by Nakamura and Allen.

The band is bolstered on roughly half the tracks by the horn section of trumpeter Brad Mason, saxophonist Sam Dillon and trombone virtuoso (and Smoke Sessions labelmate) Steve Turre. Guitarist Russell Malone appears on three tracks, while the rich baritone of vocalist Nicolas Bearde graces three tunes.

Herring had wide-ranging vision for Hard Times. “It’s the theme of the times that we’re going through,” he explained, pointing out that, at the time of this writing, the possibility of nuclear war loomed large in media discourse. “The obvious red elephant in the room would be politics. So it’s hard times not necessarily just from my vantage point, but from looking at world events. At the same time, I do realize how blessed and fortunate I am to be living the life I’m living. I have a lot of real fans that support me and a lot of great people in my life; I have wonderful kids. This album will hit people in different ways, but I offer it as an uplifting piece for the hard times in the universe.”

The album’s lead track, “Hard Work,” can be streamed below. It perfectly exemplifies Herring’s muscular yet agile tone, which is a thrill to listen to as it darts in and out of his bandmate’s steadfast accompaniment.

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