Turn on the Sun: You Belong CS

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Multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer Jesse Peterson is the heart and constant thread of the musical project Turn On The Sunlight. 'You Belong' is the fifth in an ongoing series of records that Peterson has made with a community of his close friends and collaborators, including his beloved wife, Mia Doi Todd, bright Orange laughter luminary Laraaji, experimental and folkloric visionary Luis Pérez Ixoneztli, and his frequent partner in rhyme, percussionist and producer Carlos Niño. The sound here is a perfect mixture of folk, ambient, spiritual jazz and peaceful open space improvisational flow.

'You Belong' was made in the Glendale, California, Home Studio of Peterson and Todd during 2021 and 2022. "The sudden shift in expectations and trajectory that I and many people have experienced in the past couple of years allowed me to access certain feelings and memories from the more distant past that might have been less accessible before, which probably accounts for my sudden urge to reach out to Cavana," recounts Peterson of the album's main featured collaborator Cavana Lee. "Making the album was a helpful way of working through these thoughts and feelings because of the high level of expression that the participating musicians brought to it, like I was being led by their example. ‘You Belong’ is the most collaborative of all the Turn On The Sunlight records," Peterson continues, "in that almost every song features different musicians. It grew out of a variety of collaborations in our home studio and incorporates friends recording themselves in other locations throughout the world, so it felt like the circle was growing as the album grew, which was a nice feeling. Cavana's singing is a new element and it was exciting to hear how her voice brought out the heart of the music."

At the center of the 4 key pieces that weave this album together is a truly unique symbiosis between Peterson and Cavana Lee (who met in boarding school in 1992). Lee (the daughter of magical jazz, avant-garde singer Jeanne Lee and multi-instrumentalist, composer, band leader, independent record label pioneer Gunter Hampel) remembers what it was like when she heard from Peterson out of the blue about whether she was open to writing and recording to several of his new pieces. "We were in the middle of the pandemic," recalls Lee, who lives in Berlin, "and the music industry had stopped where it was. As a singer, I suddenly had no access to public venues… I had just given up my singing space because that was forbidden in Germany at that time. Just then Jesse reached out and asked if I was interested… I was very slow in recording because I had very low digital skills at the time… I am quite an analog person. I remember the reaction I had when I heard the piece we now call “You Belong", with Laraaji. It was so full of life’s facets and in touch with Nature, I felt inspired to dedicate my voice in this song to the natural spirit of the Universe (at least how I perceive it). Also inspired by the space journeys of Sun Ra and my own father's improvised compositions, I imagine that this is what the wind, the sun, any of the elements that travel through space and the ethers would say to human beings right now. A message full of Love and Connection at a time where things felt really disconnected and disjointed. I needed this message for myself, I suppose. That’s how that track developed," Lee reflects, "it brought me there."

'You Belong' finds Peterson as the catalyst for and caretaker of advanced togetherness where an array of adventurous musicians and creative artists are featured atop and intertwined with his swirling foundations and welcoming arrangements. In addition to everyone mentioned above, “You Belong” has contributions from gyil master SK Kakraba, saxophonist Randal Fisher, trumpeter Sean Okaguchi, guitarist Fabiano Do Nascimento, keyboardist Surya Botofasina, experimentalist Sam Gendel, bassist Ricardo Dias Gomes, bass clarinetist Pablo Calogero, flautist Aisha Mars, pianist Jamael Dean, drummers Andres Renteria and Efa Etoroma Jr., and his close friends from New York, Mike Wexler and Koen Holtkamp.

Produced and mixed by Jesse Peterson,'You Belong' is remarkable and diverse, a cohesive album that sings of Universal Family, Caring, Being, and openness. Lee reveals, “‘You Belong’ is a Love declaration from Nature to us. It is a salve. It is a reminder of what we have forgotten. That forgetfulness is causing collective pain. ‘You Belong’ is an invitation to remember." Peterson concurs, “‘You Belong’ affirms that we can all be our whole beings and are all part of the whole of being. Music is a force that moves through us all, and that feeling can be transmitted through our expression, whether we're consciously aware of it or not, we all belong… we are all involved…”

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