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Brandee Younger, 'You're a Girl for One Man Only'

Brandee Younger has never drawn distinctions between the richness of the past and the possibilities of the future. As a harpist rooted in the lineage of Black music, she draws particular inspiration from Dorothy Ashby, a pioneer on the instrument who bridged modern jazz and classical music, plus the soul and R&B of her time. Roughly half a century later, Younger is chasing the same ideal — never more persuasively than on Brand New Life, her second album for Impulse, due out on April 7.

Executive produced by Makaya McCraven, and recorded at his studio in Chicago, the album features an array of guest contributors: producers Pete Rock and 9th Wonder, vocalists Meshell Ndegeocello and Mumu Fresh. But it also finds moments for Younger to shine alone, and in the company of a few close partners. The opening track, "You're a Girl for One Man Only," places her harp alongside Joel Ross' vibraphone, Rashaan Carter's bass and McCraven's drums, creating a rhythmic pull like a slow-moving undercurrent.

Dorothy Ashby composed "You're a Girl for One Man Only" for an original musical called The Choice, which she and her husband, John Ashby, created for their own theater company in Detroit. The story of a single pregnant girl growing up in a Black housing project, it made a clear political statement when it was staged in 1967 — ending just weeks before the racial uprising that captured the world's attention. But the song itself is an harbor, especially as Younger interprets its drifting theme: a gentle stir of arpeggios, supporting a melody that unfolds as a dream.

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