July 10, 2020

Rising Jazz Star and DAUS Adjunct Assistant Instructor, Immanuel Wilkins, Set to Release Debut

On June 26, 2020, alto saxophonist and composer Immanuel Wilkins released his new single, “Warriors”, a piece “about friendships, family, your hood, and your community,” Wilkins says. “It’s about us serving as warriors for whatever we believe in.” The single anticipates his debut album, Omega, which will be released on August 7th on Blue Note Records. In more ways than one, the album is very timely. Omega balances the joy and celebration expressed in “Warriors” and becomes an expansive meditation on the Black experience in America.

As he studied at Juilliard, Wilkins quietly wrote the compositions for what would be Omega. The first piece he wrote for it, in 2013, was a four-part suite — “The Key,” “Saudade,” “Eulogy,” and “Guarded Heart.” Positioned near the end of the album, the suite is Omega’s centerpiece, a 20-plus minute expedition through prayerful and tumultuous tones that fully synthesize the album. Though it was compiled well before the protests and pandemic, Omega is still a timely opus that scores our collective transition and reformation. - Blue Note Records

Wilkins, a newly appointed DAUS Adjunct Instructor of Jazz Studies, recently opened up about his music and creative process: 

What/Who is your inspiration?

The inspiration for my work generally comes from exploring ideas of Blackness, spirituality, and relationships. I’m interested in creating new realities/new worlds through sound. 

What has jazz, a unique, American vernacular art form, meant for you? What can it express? What are its possibilities to be used as a tool for expression, identity, change, awareness, unity, etc.?

One thing that I heard a filmmaker Arthur Jafa say is that Afro-American music is so special because it gives us the opportunity to see Black folk fully actualized. This really resonated with me and liberated my way of thinking in terms of what I create. I’m honored to be a part of a lineage with so many amazing artists who were tremendously individual. To me this music is liberation music, it’s a blueprint of where we are socially, politically, historically, and it’s music that teaches us fundamentals about humanity. It’s an interesting time to put out music, but I’m sure to never lose sight of the fact that there is always a hunger for art.

You just finished your first semester teaching with us. How do you feel about it? What are your goals in the classroom?

It’s a true honor to teach at NYU. This was a dream school of mine, so having the opportunity to work with the students is a real pleasure. I’ve always been passionate about teaching, and it was great to have space to imagine a course in the way I saw most beneficial for the students. My biggest goal in the classroom was to provide some mind blowing information every class, just as my greatest teachers did for me.

Any future projects planned or next steps after the album release?

In a parallel universe, I would be touring with the band playing the music on the album!

I have some large projects/commissions coming up that I’m really excited for—new music, collaborating with people I really admire. So, soon to come.


Recently, fusing spoken word with music, Immanuel collaborated with one of our Creative Writing students, Joseph Rousell, on the video, Who You Are, Whose You Are. Watch the full video on DAUS's Dovetail page.


For more on Immanuel Wilkins, visit his website.


Photo credit: Dana Scruggs

Related Articles