Sometimes we need to take a moment to reflect…
Jazz Night in America
I was doing a duo gig with Herman Burney when I learned that NPR planned to feature my band on Jazz Night in America. It was completely unexpected and a beautiful blessing for Spiritual Awakening (my forthcoming album at the time). I was fortunate to preview the new music in front of an enthusiastic audience on January 30th and 31st at Bohemian Caverns.
Recording Spiritual Awakening
On February 10th, we recorded my fourth album. In 6 hours, we captured the meaning of each song in the studio. I wanted to sustain the energy from our live performance. By the end of the night, we all experienced a musical awakening.
The band featured Allyn Johnson (rhodes and acoustic piano), Amin Gumbs (drums), Brian Settles (tenor sax), Carroll Dashiell III (drums), Christie Dashiell (vocals), Herman Burney (bass), Janelle Gill (piano), Kenny Rittenhouse (trumpet), Victor Provost (steel pan) and Reginald Cyntje (trombone, composer, producer).
Jazz Night in America Debut
February 11th was surreal. I was watching our debut on Jazz Night in America while on a high from the amazing recording session the night before. The show was a boost for both the band as well as Bohemian Caverns.
Jegna School of Music
This year marked the beginning of Jegna. I started the company in January but made it official to the public in March. Next came a series of workshops, concerts and music lessons. Within a short period of time, we doubled the amount of students studying at Jegna.
Capital Bop Track Premier
In April, Capital Bop Premiered Atonement and listeners loved it. Atonement became the favorite song on the album for many supporters. I’m humbled by the response listeners have to my music.
Releasing Spiritual Awakening
After spending time with mixing, mastering and pre-sale promotions, Spiritual Awakening was released on May 4, 2015. It was difficult getting everything lined up to release the album. I ran into unforeseen delays and expenses. But in the end, the album was well received and praised.
Jazz Avenues Review
Steve Monroe covered almost every performance I had in the DC area in 2015. He wrote “Cyntje…has fashioned another winner with the recording, which builds naturally on his previous CDs, “Freedom’s Children,” “Love” and “Elements of Life,” …Highlights include “Beatitudes,” led by Christie Dashiell’s vocal flights, and Settles’ sax work, and Rittenhouse on trumpet; “Atonement,” a subtly engaging, lilting yet urgently melodic work.” Click here for full review
On May 20th, I completed my master’s degree. There were no parties (per my request). I was happy to reach a new milestone. My college journey began in 1993. There were many ups and downs. Receiving my master’s with a 4.0 GPA felt like an exhale after a turbulent trip.
Washington City Paper Review
The Washington City Paper has reviewed all four of my albums. It’s a high honor to have someone listen to your music and give you their feedback. Mike West wrote “Spiritual Awakening is a beautiful enigma, with mystery in every corner of the album, from its melodies and harmonies to its texture and improv structure. It’s an unexpected turn from Cyntje’s previous work, but no less worthy.” Click here for full review
Since my arrival in DC in 1997, WPFW’s programmers have been extremely supportive. From my first demo to my latest album, they’ve shared my music with listeners. I can’t thank them enough for the interviews, the exposure and placing me on the playlist. “Spiritual Awakening” received tremendous love from a diverse group of on-air personalities.
Kennedy Center Debut
Although I’ve performed at the Kennedy Center numerous times with different groups, this year on August 20th was the first time my band graced the Millennium Stage. Sharing “Spiritual Awakening” with new and familiar faces made the wait worthwhile. Plus it was an added bonus to have a long line of listeners waiting to purchase the CD after the show.
I grew up in the Caribbean. Culture heritage is a key component in my music. Fortunately, “Spiritual Awakening” received an outstanding review in the Caribbean Beat Magazine. A couple months later, Jazz in the Islands Magazine also reviewed “Spiritual Awakening” in addition to recommending my previous albums to readers. The individual responsible for both reviews was Nigel Campbell. Here are his words: “With titles that evoke personal declarations that sometimes touch on the religious, “Atonement,” “Beatitudes,” “Prayer,” “Ritual,” this album of nine tunes should not be construed as instrumental gospel, but a refinement of the evolving journey of this Caribbean jazzman towards a sophisticated veneration.”
In October I composed nine new tunes (Black, Blue, Brown, Green, Orange, Pink, Purple, Red and Yellow). I’m excited that I will soon be sharing “Moods and Colors” with listeners (Baltimore at An die Musik on December 26th and in DC at Bohemian Caverns on January 8th & 9th).
Howard University School of Divinity 99th Convocation
Last year I played a small role in “God’s Trombones Revisited.” Dr. Gilbert (an audience member at the play and a Howard University professor) really enjoyed my solo performance and invited my band to be the featured performer at this year’s convocation. “Spiritual Awakening” fit perfectly with this year’s theme.
Billy Strayorn’s Centennial
Mr. Vernard Gray asked me earlier in the year to do a Caribbean rendition of Strayhorn’s music. Our conversation led to a series of concerts which included the Caton Castle, East River Jazz Festival and the Jazz and Cultural Society.
On Tap Magazine
Another surprise came when I found out that “On Tap Magazine” listed me as one of DC’s 10 HOT LOCAL MUSICIANS TO PUT ON YOUR RADAR.
WAMU – 50 Favorite DC Songs
On December 16, 2015, I woke up and learned that WAMU 88.5 – American University Radio listed ‘Rejoice’ from Spiritual Awakening as one of Bandwidth’s 50 Favorite D.C. Songs Of 2015
The song features Christie Dashiell (vocals), Allyn Johnson (piano), Herman Burney (bass), Brian Lee Settles (tenor sax), Victor Provost (steel pan) and Amin Gumbs (drums).
Washington City Paper Composer of the Year
On December 28, 2015, the Washington City Paper listed me as composer of the year for my work on “Spiritual Awakening.”
Mike West wrote, “Hearing the tunes on Cyntje’s Spiritual Awakening come together, first live and then on record, was an extraordinary peek into the creative process, but more than that it demonstrated what an imagination and craftsmanship the trombonist has been developing. Wait till you hear what he has planned for the next one.”
Capital Bop Top 5 DC Jazz Albums of 2015
On January 5, 2016, Capital Bop released their list of the best DC Jazz albums of 2015. Out of all the recordings considered, Spiritual Awakening made the TOP 5 list.
“On Spiritual Awakening, Cyntje redoubles the power and equipoise in his signature meld of Caribbean flow and modern jazz. This album’s dynamic skates up and down, from the rapid and modulating “Rejoice” to the supple, gently funky “Compassion.” But one journalistic cliché that won’t stick here is “wide-ranging:” With its breadth of sounds, its unhurried forward motion, its way of embracing the listener while still making its points known, the band doesn’t move laterally—at any moment it’s already as full and encompassing as it can be.” Read more…
As 2015 comes to a close, I’m looking back and reflecting on the ups and downs. Though there were many struggles, I can honestly say I am thankful.