Night Bjuti’s eponymous debut album (pronounced Night Beauty)taps into women’s legacies, freedom, magic and love with ritual jazz, blues and the electronic blessings of Sun Ra. The Black woman trio of vocalist Candice Hoyes, bassist Mimi Jones and percussionist Val Jeanty named themselves after a Haitian folk tale about a deceased girl who reclaims her skeleton to recapture her life. Hoyes’prayerful utterances, Jeanty’s remixing of ceremonial rhythms and Jones’ agile bass does sound like avant-garde jazz for the dead at times. They are the first group of its kind and improvisation is at the center of their creative process that excavates ancestral memories with a balance between the linear and the abstract.
The deeper conceptual moments found in “Witchez” and the rumbling rhythm and poetry of “Mood (Liberation Walk)” is akin to Shabazz Palaces’ celestial hip-hop funk. Zora Neale Hurston’s letter to W.E.B. Dubois proposing a cemetery for eminent Black artists and Carrie Mae Weems’s Kitchen Table Series of photographs are referenced on the album that moves more like a single composition instead of individual songs. Hoyes says, “We are expressing the kind of pillaging, the uprooting of women in ways personal, intergenerational, familial, sexual, past and present.” “Stolen Voice” protests the erasure of Black women’s history and reclaims it at the same time with Jeanty’s whirlwind sequences, Jones’ trancey bass grooves and Hoyes’ piercing notes. The layers of intensity are felt in Hoyes’ vocals expressing sorrowful wails commemorating past wrongs but quickly morph into furious condemnation after striking decibel shifts. The trio is living somewhere in the same universe occupied by Ursula Rucker, Robert Glasper, Flying Lotus, Burnt Sugar, The Last Poets and Kendrick Lamar but they have their own unique space. Night Bjuti’s official debut inventively combines protest, healing, love and truth-telling into an enchanting movement of sound.