Brent Birckhead – CACAO (ENG review)

Birckhead Music Group Street date April 1st 2024
Brent Birckhead – CACAO (ENG review)

Being a great lover of beautiful compositions and melodies as well as a big fan of cocoa, I eagerly listened to this album, which I must admit captivated me from the first track. Not knowing Brent Brickhead, and I’m probably not alone, I promptly sought out more information about this musician, Brent Birckhead, the multi-instrumentalist, producer, arranger, and composer, presents CACAO – an album that traces his journey of expansion and self-reclamation. This second release of 9 tracks serves as a testament to his evolution as an artist and as a person.
Born amidst the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, CACAO was completed as societies worldwide emerged from their collective hibernation. Four years after his eponymous solo debut, this harmonious masterpiece represents Birckhead’s courageous decision to forge a new path guided by the rhythmic beating of his heart. It’s an album designed to inspire those who dare to create their own path while traversing it, and Birckhead ensures that the path he has carved is of an irresistible smoothness.
But let’s give credit where it’s due, or rather to the musicians, because not only are the compositions and arrangements of this album beautiful, but the musicians featured on this album are equally so. So here’s the lineup: Brent Birckhead – Sop, Alto, Tenor saxophones, Sop and Alto flutes, bass clarinet, and synthesizers. Mark Meadows – Piano and Fender Rhodes, Romeir Mendez – acoustic and electric bass, CV Dashiell III – Drums, DeAnte Haggerty-Willis – Guitar (track 2 and 9), Matvei Sigalov – Guitar (track 3), Corey Wallace – track 4, Theljon Allen – trumpet and Flugelhorn (track 5), Renaissance Mic – MC, Christian – MC.
Now that the introductions are made, let’s get to the heart of the matter because indeed, here is yet another composer with a vast cultural background who borrows from diverse musical styles, some more obvious than others, but always with great skill.
Armed with analog instruments, samplers, and a range of digital tools, Birckhead embarked on an ambitious approach to solo improvisation and arrangement. This path required him to embrace discomfort to achieve true artistic maturity. As Birckhead explains: “Sometimes, we cling to habits and experiences that no longer serve us, instead of embracing the discomfort that comes with growth.”
A studio overhaul provided him with a streamlined workflow, allowing him to become a more prolific composer and giving him the confidence to act as both maestro and accompanist in a single recording. Meanwhile, his physical move deepened personal relationships with close family members and the community that had supported him since childhood.
Here we are in urban music, reflecting the life of this New York artist, with its ups and downs. Throughout the album, the contrasting sensations of bitterness and sweetness symbolize the symbiotic relationship necessary to achieve balance in all aspects of life. Birckhead’s saxophone shines in tracks like “Late Breakfast,” alluding to the disciplined approach to early mornings that helped his personal homeostasis. Meanwhile, “Headspace” serves as an intoxicating meditation on anxiety experienced during tough times, seeking to capture the light at the end of the tunnel.
What remains is that this album fascinates and makes one equally eager to listen to it as well as dance to it. Undoubtedly, dance here is the most urban sensation of this music. Those who love and traverse the great cities of the world will understand. But what is certain is that Brent Birckhead has succeeded in creating an album as enjoyable as a hot chocolate sipped on the terrace of a café on a winter afternoon, making this CD truly “Indispensable.”

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, March 21st 2024