NPR Music’s Tiny Desk series will celebrate Black History Month by featuring four weeks of Tiny Desk (home) concerts and playlists by Black artists spanning different genres and generations each week. The lineup includes both emerging and established artists who will be performing a Tiny Desk concert for the first time. This celebration highlights the beautiful cornucopia of Black music and our special way of presenting it. We hope you enjoy.
Suraya Mohamed | February 3, 2021
Candles and books rest on a trunk at the bottom right corner of the wide shot. There, too, are special photographs of alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins with family in his childhood home in Philadelphia. “One of the brightest things about this pandemic was going home to spend time with my mother, father and grandmother after being on the road for a while,” Wilkins told NPR recently.
He also had time to meet up with his long time bandmates — Micah Thomas on piano, Daryl Johns on bass, Kweku Sumbry on drums —in Manhattan’s Sear Sound studio to record this set. The quartet has been playing together for years, which is remarkable considering Wilkins is only 23 years old. In 2019, they recorded Wilkins’ debut album, Omega, and released it last year to high acclaim. The project is all about Blackness, Black theory, the Black experience and the struggle and triumph that go with it all.
With a carefully crafted form and melody, “Grace and Mercy” is a lyrical story about peace, forgiveness and humility. “Warriors” is a driving, dynamic tune that conveys the shield of protection provided by our inner circles. “The Dreamer” is a tender piece that honors the Black writer and activist James Weldon Johnson and is based on his poem “A Midday Dreamer.” The opening lines are played effortlessly on bass by Johns and when Wilkins joins in, his melodic saxophone exudes the rhythm of the poem’s first stanza: “I love to sit alone, and dream, and dream, and dream…”
“Grace and Mercy”
Immanuel Wilkins: saxophone
Daryl Johns: bass
Micah Thomas: piano
Kweku Sumbry: drums
Video and Audio: Brandon Unpingco, Alessio Romano for Studio 42 Brooklyn and Chris Allen
Creative Direction: Sekai Abeni, Machel Ross
Scenic Design: Frank Oliva, Rodrigo Fernandez
Lighting Consultant: Cheyenne Sykes
TINY DESK TEAM
Producer: Suraya Mohamed
Video Producer: Morgan Noelle Smith
Audio Mastering: Josh Rogosin
Associate Producer: Bobby Carter
Tiny Production Team: Bob Boilen, Kara Frame, Maia Stern
Executive Producer: Lauren Onkey
Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann