Onyx Collective present their debut studio album, Lower East Suite Part Three. The record features de-facto band leader Isaiah Barr on alto and tenor saxophone, Austin Williamson on drums, Walter Stinson on upright bass, Spencer Murphy on bass, and Roy Nathanson as guest saxophone on four tracks. Whereas previous Onyx Collective projects capture NYC's more romantic facets, Lower East Suite Part Three has a much more ominous sound, reflective of the dissonance that accompanies life in the city.
After being forced out of their original practice space due to rising rent, Onyx Collective relocated their headquarters to Magic Gallery on Market St, located in a gritty pocket of Chinatown by the East River. "When I wrote the record I was thinking about concepts like eviction and gentrification," explains Barr. "The record is born out of the challenges of being in New York." It's the first release from Onyx Collective composed of entirely written music. "The record is a graduation for us - from not just having a microphone at a session and spontaneously recording," says Barr. "This is us doing it on our own, with our own engineer, with a very low budget. That survival is really what I think jazz is: creating with your surroundings, and making something that's a picture of that."
While the new music is more premeditated than the impromptu nature of their previous work, New York's deafening influence remains present. "To some degree it's controlled, but how much is it actually controlled?" continues Barr. "At the end of one of the songs you can still hear a siren from the street. Because we weren't in a professional studio, it's not a controlled environment. We're still in New York."