Jason Palmer Releases Duo Tracks in Honor of Breonna Taylor

The faculty trumpeter collaborated with more than a dozen musicians on recordings dedicated to the EMT who was killed in March.

August 4, 2020

Acclaimed jazz trumpeter Jason Palmer, an assistant professor in Berklee's Ensemble Department, has released more than a dozen collaborative instrumental tracks, with accompanying representative videos, in honor of Breonna Taylor. Taylor was an innocent EMT killed in March by police officers in Louisville, Kentucky,  executing a no-knock warrant on her home.

Palmer was inspired by saxophonist John Ellis, who made a similar video to honor George Floyd, whose death by police violence has inspired protests and calls for racial justice around the world. “It's the least I can do with what I believe is my calling at this time in my life in order to educate people on who Breonna is and the steps that need to be taken to ensure that her death is not in vain,” said Palmer.

To launch the project, Palmer sent out a call to friends and musicians he admires and several artists quickly responded about making contributions to accompany the solo track he had recorded. “There is a small melodic figure that represents each letter of her name,” said Palmer, explaining the concept. “She was shot eight times, so I did my best to leave eight seconds between each figure [for us] to play expressively. At the end, there is 26 seconds of space to improvise. She was 26 when she passed.” 

Collaborators on the different versions of the track include faculty pianists Kevin Harris and Jason Yeager, faculty guitarist David Fiuczynski, and drummer Austin McMahon. 

Tracks also came in from musicians in various parts of the U.S.—California, New York, Washington, and Louisiana—and around the world, including England, France, and the Netherlands. Contributors include saxophonists Caroline Davis, Noah Preminger, and John Ellis; bassists Max Ridley M.M. ’17, Edward Perez, Zack Lober, and Michael Janisch; drummer Tyson Jackson B.M. ’19; vocalist Rachel Bade-McMurphy; and pianist Carmen Staaf. 

Palmer encouraged the musicians to play as much as they’d like over the track—in the spaces and over the held chords in the trumpet part. The collaborations produced powerful and strikingly different results on each version of the track, even those with similar instrumentation. 

“I’m hoping this project will serve as a piece that can help in leaving the window open for systemic change to happen, in Breonna’s case and throughout society,” said Palmer. “I've already had several people message me, thanking me for bringing attention to Breonna and carrying through by signing petitions, donating, etc., because they saw one of my collaborations.” 

Watch Jason Palmer’s collection of videos: Justice for Breonna Taylor Duos in Dedication.

About Jason Palmer

Trumpeter, composer, and educator Jason Palmer is one of the most in-demand musicians of his generation. He has performed with artists including Roy Haynes, Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Smith (the organist), Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Kurt Rosenwinkel, and others. In addition to performing on over 40 albums as a sideman, Palmer has recorded 13 albums as a leader on labels Ayva, Steeplechase, Newvelle, and Giant Step Arts. He has toured in over 30 countries and is a 2019 Chamber Music America (CMA) New Jazz Works recipient.