DownBeat March 2021

political statements can be a risky move. But Peterson surmised that Demetrius has “the strength of character to take risks.” The trumpeter acknowledged the risks asso- ciated with releasing explicitly political music. But he believes that music is inherently political: “It has to be, especially when it’s coming from the perspective of somebody who’s been marginal- ized.” However, he finds that “there is a large gap in framing the social and political context of the musicians that we’re studying in school. It’s notes, it’s theory, it’s licks, but what was going on in the world when this music was beingmade?” Demetrius said that during hismusical train- ing, he wondered why some educators seemed intent on teaching him to simply “replicate, repli- cate, replicate,” resulting in “being judgedonhow well I’m doing somebody else’s music, and how well I’m speaking with somebody else’s voice. “Therewas awhole lotmore to [legacy artists] than just notes on paper. And I feel ignoring that is stripping all of the culture away from it. It’s really removing the Blackness from it.” He added, “You can’t replicate humanity.” The teachers he strongly gravitated to at Berklee, like saxophonist Tia Fuller, offered the context he craved, alongwith a teaching style that resonatedwith him: “At no point did she ever say, ‘That lick youplayedwaswrong.’ It was, ‘That was cool, the lines were good. You just didn’t hit the ‘third dimension.’”

Alonzo Demetrius earned two degrees from Berklee College of Music.

Eventually, he asked her what the third dimension was. “It became almost a lesson in spirituality and being true to yourself,” he recalled. Describing Fuller as a “ridiculously powerful, ridiculously successful, Black, strong woman,” he praised her for instilling in him the

idea that achieving mastery is about more than simply playing the right notes. He realized that he needed to play from his own perspective. He needed to be “playing life.” Listening to PrisonNation , it’s evident that he has taken that lesson to heart. —Ayana Contreras


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