Sly5thAve releases orchestral new album ‘Liberation’

Layered with orchestral arrangements, jazz improvision and Hip-Hop production, Sly5thAve’s new album ‘Liberation’ is an accomplished record of courage, musical conviction, and growth.

“It sounds like Isaac Hayes and Steely Dan got together and had a baby” Lauren Laverne

“”Liberation” – It’s my favourite song on Sly5thAve’s album” Jamz Supernova

“I felt compelled to switch on main character mode and stroll the streets of Brooklyn” NPR Music

Buy / Stream ‘Liberation’, on black vinyl and digital, HERE

Shaped by his faith in hip-hop, and deep understanding of soul, R&B and jazz, ‘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 the singles from ‘Liberation’, where he revitalises the beloved Destiny’s Child classic “No, No, No Pt. 2” with help from Jonathan Mones. Sly5thAve’s inventive reinterpretation delves into one of the song’s sources from Barry White’s “Strange Games & Thangs”, resulting in an artful meld of disco from the original and hip-hop from Destiny’s Child. The driving force behind “Monoxide feat. MonoNeon, MacKenzie & Peter Knudsen” was the bassline by MonoNeon (the iconic bassist and Ghost Note bandmate) which he laid down for the album track “Actin Whyte”, and catalysed the entire piece. Sly5thAve reflects on that process, I was editing everything together and then was super inspired when I heard it.”  Sly5thAve describes the track as residing on the edge of hip-hop but still firmly rooted in funk. The drone of the groove is emphasised, with drums contributing an unrelenting loop, punctuated by brief moments of release when they momentarily drop out, an auditory experience that, in Sly5thAve’s words, “just hits you over the head.” “Monoxide” also features MacKenzie on vocals and guitar from Peter Knudsen. The closing track “Big Brother feat. Daniel Wytanis”, features and pays tribute to both Robert “Sput” Searight and Nate Werth, alongside another Ghost Note member and mixing engineer Ben Burget, with Sly5thAve expressions of gratitude for the fraternity captured throughout the track.

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.

Sly5thAve has attained much respect from his work with a host of highly-fêted musicians including Prince (as a member of the New Power Generation Band), Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Taylor Swift, Janelle Monae, Freddie Gibbs and Quantic. Sly5thAve has toured alongside MonoNeon, Peter Knudsen and MacKenzie as members of Ghost Note (headed by Snarky Puppy’s multi-Grammy–winning percussion duo Robert “Sput” Searight and Nate Werth), Quantic and with his own side project, IGBO, and has supported Alfa Mist on his North American tour.

“Sly always comes correct with his own take on covers but also pushed new boundaries on his original work. Don’t sleep on Sly!” Anthony Valadez (KCRW)

Sly5thAve has announced a series of live dates in the UK and Ireland in March and April, ticket info here: