Harpist Brandee Younger defies genres as a classically-trained musician playing in the avant-garde tradition of her musical predecessors Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane. Ms. Younger delivers a fresh take on the instrument as an educator, curator, solo artist and leader of her own ensemble, The Brandee Younger Quartet. She has produced an impressive body of work since the 2011 debut of her Prelude EP. Her discography includes Brandee Younger Live @ The Breeding Ground, Bluenote Records and Revive Music’s 2015 album Supreme Sonacy Vol. 1, the critically-acclaimed 2016 album Wax & Wane and a 2018 appearance as a featured artist on the Impulse tribute to The Beatles titled A Day in the Life: Impressions of Pepper. Her most recent album Soul Awakening is the first full-length album recorded by Younger.
Known for expressive interpretations of traditional harp repertoire as well as her continued work with a diverse cross-section of musical talents, Ms. Younger is widely recognized as a creative linchpin whose nuanced presence and willingness to push boundaries have made her irreplaceable on record and in performance. She has shared the stage with jazz leaders and popular hip-hop and r&b titans including Ravi Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Jack Dejohnette, Reggie Workman, Common, Maxwell, John Legend and Lauryn Hill. Most recently, her original composition Hortense was featured in the documentary Homecoming by Beyoncé Knowles.
As well versed in performance art as she is in the art of creative risk-taking, Brandee Younger challenges commonly-held notions in her quest to ”make the harp a more relevant force in today’s music.” Ms. Younger’s ability to seamlessly inject the harp into arrangements and venues where it has historically been overlooked is a testament to her deep love for and exemplary command of the instrument.
A native of Long Island, New York, Ms. Younger spent her formative years in Hempstead and Uniondale where she began harp studies as a teen under the tutelage of Karen Strauss. She received further instruction from harpists Rebecca Flannery, Susan Jolles, Emily Mitchell and bassist Nat Reeves. Ms. Younger went on to earn undergraduate degrees in Harp Performance and Music Business from The Hartt School of the University of Hartford. While there, she was mentored by the faculty of the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz and African American Studies. An immersive experience detailed in an article by Nate Chinen of The New York Times.
Upon graduating from Hartt, Reeves introduced Ms. Younger to saxophonist Kenny Garrett, with whom she would sharpen her skills in both ensemble playing and improvisation. Entering New York University for graduate school six months later, she had already established an impressive résumé, having joined the harp faculty at the Hartt School Community Division, opened for Slide Hampton as a member of Hartford based collective The New Jazz Workshop and developed a working relationship with GRAMMY-nominated producer and artist Ryan Leslie and GRAMMY Award-winning producer Omen.
Building upon that foundation, Ms. Younger began working with saxophonist Ravi Coltrane on a series of concerts honoring the music of the late pianist, organist and harpist, Alice Coltrane. The study of Coltrane’s music, along with the work of harpist Dorothy Ashby, would ultimately help Ms. Younger develop her own approach to the instrument -- a style that is at once striking and singular in performance.
After years of playing as a sideman in various ensembles, Brandee Younger released her debut Prelude EP, which was originally intended for use as a demo. Released in 2011, the acclaimed indie project was recorded in an analog studio with Dezron Douglas, E.J. Strickland and vocalist Niia. The original standout track “So Alive” was later featured in the Mercedes Benz Mixed Tape compilation; Younger’s expansive and emphatically beautiful contribution subsequently lauded by Mercedes Benz as “...a compelling soul jazz composition, in which all instruments are melded to a haunting universe centered around Niia’s celestial voice. Beguiling musical subtlety in these times of loudness.”
Brandee Younger’s versatility has been her passport to an array of venues and the source of musical synthesis at the core of her work. As a classical musician, she has been a featured soloist with The Harlem Chamber Players and North Shore Symphony Orchestra as well as the Impulse Artist Series. She has also performed with an array of ensembles including the Eastern Connecticut Symphony, Waterbury Symphony, Soulful Symphony, Ensemble Du Monde, Camerata New York and the Red Bull Artsehcro, a “non-conformist” orchestra. As well, Ms. Younger has worked and recorded with a number of jazz luminaries including Jack DeJohnette, Pharoah Sanders, Christian McBride, Ravi Coltrane, Wycliffe Gordon, Charlie Haden, Rashied Ali, Butch Morris, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Kenny Garrett and Bill Lee. Her work in r&b and hip-hop has found her sharing studios and stages with the likes of John Legend, Common, Drake, Salaam Remi and Ms. Lauryn Hill. Deftly fusing elements of each genre, Ms. Younger released her critically-acclaimed Wax & Wane LP in 2016. Her latest formal release is an ode to preservation and the art of pushing the envelope that finds her planting her flag as arguably one of the most fearless leaders at the fore of the latest revolution in music.
Brandee Younger has taught at Adelphi University, Nassau Community College, The Hartt School Community Division at the University of Hartford and currently maintains a rigorous schedule as a private instructor and teacher at Greenwich House Music School in New York City. Ms. Younger has lectured and conducted masterclasses at The Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto), University of Birmingham (UK), Howard University, Drexel University, Princeton University, Trinity College, Berklee College of Music, The Hartt School, Elyrica Summer Music Program, Connecticut Valley Harp Intensive, NOLA Jazz & Pop Festival and she also serves as Symphonic and Jazz Harp Artist in Residence at the Cicely L. Tyson Community School of Performing and Fine Arts. Recent residencies include intensives at Michigan State University, DePaul University, Tulane University and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. In addition, she boasts a handful of bylines for Revive Music and Harp Column Magazine and The American Harp Journal and holds several leadership positions as a member of the Apollo Young Patrons Steering Committee, the advisory board of the Wilbur Ware Foundation and is Director at Large of the American Harp Society (AHS) and Vice President of the Metro NYC and Long Island Chapters of the AHS. Stepping away from traditional venues to bring live performance to alternative spaces, in 2016 Ms. Younger served as curator of the weekly Harp On Park lunchtime concert series “highlighting the diversity of the harp and the contemporary importance of an ancient instrument” and in 2019, curated “Her Song”, highlighting the works of women composers for Arts Brookfield. In 2017, she curated “Divine Ella”, a concert dedicated to the legacy of Ella Fitzgerald as part of the historic Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture’s annual Women’s Jazz Festival and most recently the 2019 “Her Song” series presented by Arts Brookfied, highlighting women composers.