Brand New Sound
“I exist on the folk-jazz continuum,” says Obomsawin, a bassist who defies normal musical boundaries. Her new sextet just released Sweet Tooth, her debut as a jazz composer and bandleader. The album features a blend of improvisation and traditional material that taps into Obomsawin’s roots as a member of the Wabanaki First Nation at Odanak in Quebec, Canada. In May she performed in the debut of the 16-member Julia Keefe Indigenous Big Band, which played Obomsawin’s “Blood Quantum.” The piece, which she composed for her sextet and arranged for the larger ensemble, ends with women chanting to the beat of a Native drum. Indigenous roots are often overlooked as an element of jazz traditions, says Obomsawin, who grew up in Maine and took up the bass in fifth grade.
The comparative lit and government major played in the College’s Coast Jazz Orchestra directed by Taylor Ho Bynum, who now plays in her sextet, as does saxophonist Noah Campbell ’21. “What I’ve been deeply excited about is what a complete artist she is,” Bynum says. “She really challenges herself.”
Earlier this year Obomsawin won the International Folk Music Association’s Rising Tide award. She previously released three albums as a member of the indie-folk Lula Wiles trio on the Smithsonian Folkways label.