James Francies: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert
NPR Music is celebrating Black Music Month, and the videos so far have been amazing. Here’s another that stood out for me, with pianist James Francies and his band performing three songs.
Francies is joined by Or Bareket on bass, Jeremy Dutton on drums, Elliott Skinner on vocals, Francesca Dardani and Adriana Molello on violin, Tia Allen on viola, and Marta Bagratuni on cello. The group performs “713”, “Rose Water”, and “Sway/Freedmen’s Town”.
“A smile, laughter and a candle burning beside a delicate flower arrangement welcome us into the warm studio that is the set of James Francies’ Tiny Desk (home) concert. The young Houstonian and Blue Note recording artist begins with the hypnotic grooves of ‘713’ — one of our picks for the best songs of 2021. This tune allows Francies’ virtuosic playing to shine, as he masterfully scales the keys during his solo. After a quick greeting, we’re whisked away by the luscious string ensemble that introduces ‘Rose Water.’ Performed by vocalist Elliott Skinner, we’re lifted by Skinner’s voice as he sings beautifully of hope, support and growth: ‘I wish that you could see the light / That radiates in everyday…All the trials inside my mind / Shape me.’ Francies ends his set with ‘Sway/Freedmen’s Town.’ The jazz trio plays while a recording of the voice of Francies’ father, James Francies Sr., tells the story of Freedmen’s Town, a historic district of Houston now known as Fourth Ward. It’s a fitting end to a Tiny Desk (home) concert that celebrates Black Music Month, a poignant and powerful reminder of how far we have come and what we still struggle against.”