Ryan Dragon


ORENDA 0015Kid Songs | Ryan Dragon

Memory is an enigmatic filter. It’s our link to our own personal histories, and yet it’s wildly elastic, bending and stretching with our innermost emotions. To reflect on childhood we recall events, places, people, and our own experiences not as they actually were, but according to the imprint they made on our unconscious – memories of childhood are cartoon-like, warped visions that swell, flex and deflate, like a face drawn on the surface of a balloon. And yet, they make us who we are.

Ryan Dragon has quickly established himself as one of the West Coast’s most innovative up and coming trombonists, and is already a fixture in the Los Angeles jazz and avant-garde communities. However, in the midst of his meteoric rise amongst LA’s greats, he’s never lost a sense of connection to his roots, and reflects on childhood memories through haunting, complex, and warped songs. Warped in the best possible ways. And he’s united longtime friends with living legends to create an inimitable band and album, Kid Songs.

Joining forces with long-time east coast compatriots, Mike Bjella (tenor saxophone) and Devin Drobka (drums), as well as bi-coastal bassist Richard Giddens, and lauded LA veteran pianist John Beasley, Ryan’s vision takes full flight on this daring and gorgeous venture. Kid Songs flows freely between expansive electronic soundscapes and twisting horn micro-tonality, and driving playful jazz, always grooving as a tight-knit unit. In moments of pure groove, there are interjections of melancholy, like deja vu, and in sections of expansive exploration there are outbursts of rhythm – nothing is ever quite what it seems on the surface. The music is kaleidoscopic and ever-changing, pulling the listener deep through imagination.

Though this is the debut recording for this particular band and project, these are seasoned musicians of the highest caliber. Sporting a list of associations including Miles Davis, Freddy Hubbard, Joe Lovano, Robert Glasper, Gordon Goodwin, Bill Holman, and STOMP, these musicians have shared the stage with some of the greatest musicians of the last century. OnKid Songs they stand together as a true ensemble with unified vision and purpose, and an imagination and sense of adventure that is undeniably compelling.

Ultimately, however, Kid Songs, is more than a collection of incredible players and interesting compositions. It’s a sonic journey inward, evocative and inviting that pushes us toward the nether regions of our own memories. As jazz trombone legend and liner notes writer Joey Sellers put it:

The tenuous entanglement of memory and reality – observed best by Nabokov in his memoir “Speak, Memory” -- seem particularly evinced in this music. The usual suspects are present here -- melody, groove, harmony, blah, blah, blah – but the prism created by Kid Songs offers a different view – skewed perhaps, but no less truthful. We remember events quite differently from how they actually occurred, and recounting the same story on multiple occasions finds that narrative twisting to fit each new circumstance. Our memories of childhood are no less true for their lack of accuracy, and Kid Songs’ candor – composed, improvised and interpreted – is indisputable. 

This is the kind of album we cherish at Orenda Records. It’s a transformative experience, a listen that invites us to look inward and find a deeper connection to ourselves through music. It’s our distinct pleasure and honor to bring you Kid Songs!

 — Daniel Rosenboom, Founder of Orenda Records (June 8, 2015)


ORENDA 0034Burnt Hibiscus | Jon Armstrong
ORENDA 0008Farewell | Jon Armstrong Jazz Orchestra