Cleveland-born scholar/poet/writer KEITH LAMAR is hard at work creating and performing new material for his first album, FREEDOM FIRST from his cell at the Ohio State Penitentiary! He has spent over 28 years in solitary confinement on death row for a crime he didn’t commit and is scheduled to be executed in less than two short years on November 16, 2023. Even as he continues the fight for his life, he calls this body of work his “last will and testament.” The album is both personal and provocative, shedding painful light on the soul-murdering effects of systemic racism and the carceral system in the US. Keith’s message of love and hope even from the darkest of places is one that every human being needs to hear. We have raised all the costs for recording, and now we need your help to finish production (more info below).
Recorded in Girona (Spain), Brooklyn (New York), and Portland (Oregon), as well as from a prison cell the size of a closet at the Supermax in Youngstown (Ohio), FREEDOM FIRST will be the first album in history recorded and released by an artist while on death row (and solitary confinement at that!). It features collaborations with many of jazz’ most incredible contemporary talents: Marc Ayza, Patricia Brennan, Milena Casado, Scott Colberg, Erin Corine, Caroline Davis, Xavier Del Castillo, Manel Fortià, Nick Hakim, Brian Jackson, Keith LaMar, Albert Marquès, Roy Nathanson, Adam O’Farrill, Arturo O’Farrill, Zack O’Farrill, Samora Pinderhughes, Bam Rodriguez, Walter Stinson, Gerald Appleman, and Salim Washington.
We need the help of the public to finish the release of FREEDOM FIRST! Scheduled for completion by the end of February 2022, the project is approximately $5,000 from fruition. All these amazing musicians and sound engineers are volunteering their time and energy. Still, we need your support to help bring the recordings to press. We hope to take the album beyond the digital realm as we help get Keith’s story to the public in the form of collectible vinyl and CDs (which are also able to be sent to other prisoners around the country!) along with a booklet that includes Keith’s beautiful poems and liner notes. Please donate to help us cover the remaining production costs (mixing, pressing discs, printing & marketing materials).
Take a look and listen to ON LIVING, recorded February 21, 2021, at “El Local” in Girona (Catalonia), Spain. Keith is reading “On Living,” a poem by Turkish poet Nazım Hikmet via video from death row at the Youngstown, Ohio State Penitentiary.
Take a look and listen to TELL ‘EM THE TRUTH, recorded May 8, 2022, at “Conveyor” in Brooklyn, New York. Keith gave his spoken word performance live via video call from death row at the Youngstown, Ohio State Penitentiary.
FREEDOM FIRST was born on the streets of New York during the summer of 2020, in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, at a time of profound loss and racial tension. Conceived and produced by Brooklyn-based Catalan pianist Albert Marques, FREEDOM FIRST became a collaboration of dozens of international musicians—all “on-hold” due to the pandemic lockdown—taking to the streets to play a powerful song set curated by Keith, an avid jazz lover. Using music as a form of protest, a concert series emerged, spanning 2020-2021, with Keith phoning in to lend his voice from prison in Ohio to both new compositions and jazz standards each time. Eventually, the dream to record an album emerged, and work to make this dream come true is now well underway. Many of the songs heard by those live audiences in NYC, plus never before heard tunes written just for this album, will be featured. Please help us complete this beautiful project! Learn more at www.albertmarques.com/freedomfirst