Beyond (Division 81 Records)

Contact Sam McAllister about I AM

I AM –  the duo of Isaiah Collier on woodwinds and Michael Shekwoaga Ode on drums – release a new single/video, “Bend Of The Universe (Trust With All Your Heart),” from their new album Beyond, out June 10th on Division 81. Throughout “Bend of the Universe (Trust With All Your Heart),” Collier and Ode take a deeper look within to reflect and gather before a full-on vortex occurs; the colorful swirling of sounds propelled by Collier’s breath control and full expression, with Ode responding in kind with his rare ability to present the abstract groove for the next phase of this journey.


Partly inspired by a solo exchange between the duo during the 5th movement of Collier’s acclaimed 2021 release, Cosmic Transitions, entitled “Mercury’s Retrograde,” Beyond finds both Collier and Ode searching deep within their individual spiritual consciousness to communicate the understanding that there is something “beyond” the limitations of the physical world and the understandings of everyday life. “The one focus of this album is to take the listener on a journey that is rare, uncompromising to any understanding other than the desire to tap into the higher forces in the universe and deliver that message to the world,” says Sonny Daze, the album’s producer. Recorded entirely in one take in the dead-of-night on June 23rd, 2021 in Studio 5 at the Chicago Recording Company, Beyond is informed by the presence of poet/sound healer Jimmy Chan, who attended the session with a gong, Tibetan singing bowls and a crystal didgeridoo to conjure trance state transcendency. Sans headphones, surely sacrilegious for a shaman, he began his invocation as Collier blew Hulusi flute, then piping sopranino. Daze burned a red light in the studio, a cauldron of incense, a bushel of sage, smoke to infuse and transport. Barely baffled, Collier and Ode battled it out face-to-face.


At 23-years-old, Collier has “transcended the realm of prodigy” (DownBeat), quickly becoming a tour-de-force in the Chicago and Brooklyn music scenes. Ode and Collier first met  when Ode backed the saxophonist for his audition at Oberlin. “Isaiah was so good I insisted to the professors in attendance he should be given a full ride!” recalled Ode. Ultimately Collier studied at the Brubeck Institute in LA but he didn’t forget his first meeting with Ode, either. Ode’s Nigerian parents bought him his first drum kit when he was 2, a red-and-orange Rockstar affair with paper heads.  That was a church engagement supplying backbeats for a choral rendition of “Lord, I Lift Your Name On High,” and deep faith is further cement between he and Collier, locking their musical simpatico with unquestionable clarity of purpose: “Our relationship with God definitely set us on our path, we’re here to cultivate and build, uplift people.” John Coltrane’s burning light illuminates the duo too. They share fervor for such later Coltrane explorations as “Meditations” and the posthumously released “Transition.”