Canadian drummer and composer Anthony Fung aims to capture a range of emotions experienced in this particular moment in history with his third album What Does It Mean to Be Free?
Fung joined forces with David Binney, Braxton Cook, Andrew Renfroe, Marcel Camargo, and other formidable young talents to craft a concise set of eight original compositions along with an arrangement of the Wayne Shorter tune Sightseeing.
When the beginnings of the pandemic forced the postponement of his recording date in the spring of 2020, Fung returned to Canada. It was there and then that the majority of the new record took shape.
“For me, this record was written — except for Flashpoint Revisited and the ballad Let Us Not Forget to Be Kind —everything was written during the pandemic in Toronto for six months,” Fung says. “I was deciding whether I should even be in the States. COVID, and Trump, and the election: Pretty much everyone in the entire world was feeling stuck in some way. We’re at home, the government was telling us to stay at home. Wear a mask. Oh, we’re finally lifting the restrictions — oh, whoops, stay home.”
In response to such a challenging period of time filled with loss, anger, and uncertainty, Fung crafted a vibrant set of songs meant to channel the direct and indirect experience of these events.
“This whole record was a learning process. I mixed and produced it myself,” he says. “There’s only so much we can do. A smaller band, a couple of rehearsals. Because of the lockdowns, we hadn’t been playing much. But I kind of wanted to capture that. That time when we’re kind of all stuck: just go in there, rehearse something, and just play. Capture this moment in time and not to be too precious about the music.”
Fung has come a long way since he first started playing the drums at the age of 10 in his hometown of Richmond Hill, Ont. After his time spent in the JAZZ.FM91 Youth Big Band, he relocated to Boston to study at Berklee College of Music’s Global Jazz Institute under the mentorship of piano icon Danilo Perez; he then headed to California to study under the legendary Herbie Hancock at what was then called the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz (now known as the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz). Fung has since gone on to work with Wayne Shorter, Esperanza Spalding, John Patitucci, Terrace Martin, Miguel Zenón, John Beasley and more.
In the process of this training, Fung honed his impressive technique over the drum kit and on the pages as a composer. His previous album Flashpoint featured from Caribbean rhythms, lush string arrangements and modern jazz textures, inspired by the worldly influences of his tutelage. On What Does it Mean to Be Free?, Fung retains this kind of global thinking, but, he says, “I wanted to push the boundaries a little more.”
Here’s the track listing:
- What Does It Mean to Be Free?
- El Paso
- Defiance (feat. Braxton Cook)
- Flashpoint (Revisited)
- Sonny’s Blues (feat. Marcel Camargo)
- ROOTS (feat. Oscar Cruz)
- Let Us Not Forget to Be Kind (feat. Roni Eytan)
What Does It Mean to Be Free? will be independently released on May 6, 2022.