Released: 22 Mar 2024

Label: Tru Thoughts

‘Liberation’ is the third solo LP from composer, arranger, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Sly5thAve. Layered with orchestral arrangements, jazz improvisation and Hip-Hop production, ‘Liberation’ is an accomplished record of courage, musical conviction, and growth. Trusting his inner voice and personal taste, Sly5thAve found himself liberated from fear by the ease with which the original orchestrations of ‘Liberation’ manifested themselves: “This record exploded out of me. I couldn’t write it fast enough.

I ran from it for so long but when I finally sat down to face it, to face myself and embrace who I am, I learned something about my limits and what I was capable of. I realised that I couldn’t find the missing element from my sound in other people or other artists. They couldn’t make it whole; they couldn’t make me whole.”

Known for his sophisticated compositions, Sylvester Uzoma Onyejiaka II AKA Sly5thAve’s first experiences with large scale arranging were with the Club Casa Chamber Orchestra and recording instrumental covers of popular modern songs. Notably, his orchestral tribute to Dr. Dre, ‘The Invisible Man,’ garnered widespread praise and attention, even earning the admiration of Dr. Dre himself. Through these recordings Sly5thAve felt he had found a way to make people connect with orchestral music; “I’ve long felt orchestras around the world are inaccessible to most people – whether it be the programming or the cost, or the location”.

The LP is Sly5thAve’s first full album of original orchestral arrangements and features the musicianship of Sly5thAve’s collaborators and Ghost Note bandmates – headed by Snarky Puppy’s multi-Grammy–winning percussion duo Robert “Sput” Searight and Nate Werth, alongside previous collaborator Roberto Verástegui. Sly5thAve’s passion for collaboration is expressed on singles from ‘Liberation’, as he revitalises the beloved Destiny’s Child classic “No, No, No Pt. 2” with help from Jonathan Mones; through the MonoNeon bassline of “Monoxide” featuring MacKenzie on vocals and guitar from Peter Knudsen; and on closing track“Big Brother feat. Daniel Wytanis”, a track that features and pays tribute to both Robert “Sput” Searight and Nate Werth, alongside Ghost Note member and mixing engineer Ben Burget.

Title track “Liberation” epitomises the whole machine of the album’s recording process; “The orchestra is in full swing, there’s a bit of my personality in there with lead sax, Roberto [Verástegui] and the soli at the end are arranged within an inch of their life, and Peter [Knudsen] takes one of the baddest guitar solos I’ve ever heard”, Sly5thAve enthuses. Taking inspiration from Blaxploitation soundtracks of the 1970s and the music of Curtis Mayfield, Willie Hutch, Herbie Hancock, Gordon Parks, and J. J. Johnson, “Liberation” is – as the name suggests – a true expression of fearless musical freedom.

The vinyl version of the album features Instrumental versions “No, No, No Pt. 2 feat. Jonathan Mones”, “Actin’ Whyte” and “Monoxide feat. MonoNeon & Peter Knudsen” that are not available elsewhere.