Onyx Collective Releases New Single 'My Funny Valentine'
On Friday, elusive New York City jazz group Onyx Collective returns with the release of their new single. "My Funny Valentine" features Nick Hakim and is a reimagining of the song originally written for Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's 1937 musical Babes in Arms. On Onyx Collective's stripped-down rendition of the song, out via TMWRK Records, Nick Hakim delivers a delicate vocal performance over A HAUNTING and at times tense piano riff. With the release Onyx Collective becomes one of the many significant artists to cover the song, including Hal McIntyre and Ruth Gaylor, Chet Baker, Frank Sinatra, Lee Wiley, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, The Supremes, Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders, Chris Botti and Sting, and Chaka Khan.
In addition to the new single, Onyx Collective is announcing a new album coming soon via TMWRK Records. Produced by Isaiah Barr of Onyx Collective and Jeremy Yohai of Concord Music Publishing, Manhattan Special: Onyx Collective Plays Rodgers & Hart / Rodgers & Hammerstein is comprised entirely of Onyx Collective's reimaginations of songs from the legendary songwriting duos of Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II and Rodgers & Lorenz Hart. Three of the biggest names of the American Songbook, these songwriting pairs are responsible for numbers such as "Where or When," "Spring Is Here," "Miss Jones," "Getting To Know You," and many more.
If Onyx Collective, the nebulous jazz ensemble whose name you may have overheard in downtown Manhattan at some point in the past couple years, seems elusive it is because they often are. Onyx shows are unannounced, impromptu affairs: the group will perform in a basement, at a cocktail lounge atop a hotel, and to the street from a storefront all in the course of a week. The cast of performers is interchangeable, as is the kind of music that they play. Salsa and funk are fair game, in addition to the band's own unique style of jazz.
Onyx Collective is a steadfast part of New York, and the city is the glue that holds the group together. "New York's role in Onyx Collective is everything," explains Isaiah Barr, saxophonist, sometimes vocalist, and de facto leader of the band. "The names of people, the places, the street corners here are so legendary and historically prominent - it leaves a roadmap that we can walk through and a story for us to follow."
Though an often rotating cast, Barr and Austin Williamson (on drums) are regularly joined by Joshua Benitez on keyboard, Jack Guliemetti on guitar, Felix Pastorius and Spencer Murphy on electric bass, and Dean Torrey and Walter Stinson on upright bass, with Maxwell Deter providing most of Onyx Collective's visual art. There is an additional group of artists who consistently orbit in and out of the Onyx universe. Nick Hakim, Princess Nokia, Julian Soto, Dev Hynes, Wiki, and other New York mainstays have performed with the band, and Onyx quietly features on a bevy of other artists' records. Barr featured 3 times on the new David Byrne record and made a cameo in Ibeyi's live band for their performance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. More recently Onyx Collective toured as A$AP Rocky's live band.
The group's enigmatic nature is undeniably a part of its allure, but the force that truly propels the group is technical musical proficiency (the band's members attended New York's musical conservatories as kids) coupled with a reckless abandon. Onyx runs a manic energy through their classical training to create a live show that at times feels as punk as it does jazz. Barr is known to wield two saxophones simultaneously, playing both over Williamson's feverish drumming.
In September of 2016, with little fanfare, Onyx Collective released Second Avenue Rundown, a collection of live recordings released via Supreme and Know-Wave. The vinyl sold out almost immediately, and the project cannot be found online - if listeners wanted to hear the group they had to track them down in New York. A little over a year after Second Avenue Rundown, Onyx Collective made their official debut beyond the city with the release of their EPs Lower East Suite Part One and Two in 2017. The recordings found on the projects are predominantly taken from live performances the band played across the city, capturing a diverse array of atmospheres and moments from New York. The band also released a joint 12" with Nick Hakim exclusively for Record Store Day 2018. Lower East Suite Part Three marked the first time that the group shared an entire project of recorded music that is written rather than improvised.
"There's something about where we play that makes it an Onyx Collective show," says Barr. "Not who we play to, that's not what drives it. It's where we play." Onyx Collective needs the city - the group could not exist without it. And at a time when New York seems more plagued than ever, it is apparent that the city needs Onyx Collective. "Our role in New York is to tell its story," concludes Barr. "In a way that is accrediting and paying homage to those before us, and to then add to what they've done."
After long and highly distinguished careers with other collaborators, Richard Rodgers (Composer, 1902-79) and Oscar Hammerstein II (Librettist/Lyricist, 1895-1960) joined forces in 1943 to create the most successful partnership in American Musical Theatre. Prior to joining forces, Rodgers collaborated with lyricist Lorenz Hart on musical comedies that epitomized wit and sophistication (Pal Joey, On Your Toes, Babes In Arms, and more), while Hammerstein brought new life to operetta and created the classic Show Boat with Jerome Kern. Oklahoma!, the first Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, introduced an integrated form that became known as "the musical play." Their shows that followed included Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music. Collectively, the Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals have earned Tony, Oscar, Grammy, Emmy, Pulitzer, and Olivier Awards. The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization is a Concord Company, www.concord.com.
Richard Rodgers (Composer, 1902-79) and Lorenz Hart (Lyricist, 1895-1943) began their collaboration while still in school at Columbia. Their breakthrough came with the score for a 1925 charity show, The Garrick Gaities, which featured their iconic song "Manhattan." From there the duo went on to create an established career working for stage and film (Musicals: Pal Joey; On Your Toes; Babes In Arms; The Boys from Syracuse and more; Film: Love Me Tonight; The Phantom President; Hallelujah, I'm a Bum; Mississippi). Together they wrote over 500 songs and 28 stage musicals. In early 1943, the partnership disbanded temporarily early when Rodgers collaborated with Oscar Hammerstein II on Oklahoma! The Rodgers & Hart partnership resumed with a revision of their 1927 musical comedy A Connecticut Yankee, and the new production opened on Broadway November 17, 1943. Already ill at the time, Lorenz Hart died less than a week later. Following Hart's death, Rodgers pursued a career with Oscar Hammerstein II.