Vocalist Milton Suggs & Pianist Michael King to Release New Project “Pure Intention” on July 12th, 2024

Vocalist Milton Suggs, joined by pianist Michael King to release “Pure Intention,” his debut recording for Imani Records

A vocal-piano duo with vocalist Milton Suggs and pianist Michael King.
This album features the music of some jazz’s most revered musicians and composers, such as Horace Silver, Cedar Walton, Lee Morgan, with lyrics penned by Milton Suggs

Milton Suggs’ aptly titled Pure Intention, his Imani Records debut and first album since 2016, admirably showcases the 40-year-old singer’s considerable skills in the realms of lyric writing and interpretation. Joined by the gifted pianist Michael King, a fellow Chicagoan and long-time bandstand partner, Suggs tells stories set to melodies by harmonically sophisticated, upper echelon composers like Benny Golson, Horace Silver, Buster Williams, Cedar Walton, Larry Willis, Mulgrew Miller and Kenny Garrett, along with imaginative “covers” of the O’Jays’ “Cry Together” (Gamble & Huff) and Frankie Beverly’s “Golden Time of Day”. Throughout the proceedings, the protagonists remain faithful to unlocking the messages encoded therein, while sustaining an animating spirit of improvisation and dialogue. A smooth baritone like his early role models Nat King Cole and Joe Williams, also Chicago-born, Suggs phrases with the fluidity of the instrumentalists he honors, with exemplary diction, proceeding deliberately at all tempos to ensure he conveys the tale as it needs to be told, while also channeling the emotional transparency of Chicago Soul hero Donny Hathaway, and the go-for-broke spiritual energy of the 360-degree-oriented AACM singer Luba Rashiek.

With Pure Intention, Suggs circles back to the format of his first recording, a duo encounter with Chicago piano legend Willie Pickens, his godfather, titled Just Like Me: Music of Ellington and Strayhorn, on which Suggs, then in his late twenties, delivered the lyrics with subtlety and erudition, referencing different Ellington singers in his own manner. He began to focus on vocalese after moving to Chicago in the early ̛ 00s to “gain respect” at demanding Windy City jam sessions run by tenor sax legends Fred Anderson and Von Freeman, and at the same Green Mill Tavern gathering where Kurt Elling made his name in the early ̛ 90s.

Pure Intention is Suggs’ first release since The Truth Inside, released in 2016, on which he framed his voice with a mid-sized ensemble including such Chicago-based generational peers as Marquis Hill and Christopher McBride. During the interim, he’s shifted his focus in favor of parenting his young daughter, working as a teacher and data specialist, while also writing and creating and doing occasional gigs. Part of his motivation for documenting his development circa 2023 in this naked, unforgiving format is the inherent freedom and flexibility that it allows.

Suggs also seeks these qualities in his relationship with Imani Records. “I’m looking for zautonomy, for relationships with good energy and like-minded artistic values,” he says. “I had Imani in mind because I think that’s Imani’s strength.”

“I ran to this record,” Imani Records owner Orrin Evans says. “Milton reminds me of Andy Bey, who I had the pleasure of playing with. I love his energy and spirit. I’m excited about the opportunity to put out a simple duo record that I know will get some airplay and put him in another light. Very few singers could do a duo tour with just a piano player. It amazes me that Milton is such a quiet person, but you close your eyes, and all this beautiful stuff comes out.”
~Ted Panken

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