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Richmond Jazz Musician Trey Sorrells Looks to the Hip-Hop Generation



The name of Trey Sorrells’ next-generation Richmond band, Future Prospect, already is getting a bit out of date.

Not that its members are jaded veterans — the oldest player is in his early 20s. But in a short time they’ve become regulars on the local scene.

Their debut album, “The Climb,” was recorded at Richmond’s Jellowstone Records and was released July 29 on the independent Ropeadope label. In the run-up they’ve been collaborating with long-established players and building a genre-crossing repertoire encompassing straight-ahead improvisation, hip-hop and vocals, and classic soul covers.

They did a Stevie Wonder tribute in early January at the Camel, followed by a tribute to Prince in May and to Michael Jackson in June. All the while, they’ve continued to build an audience for their own, funk-infused music.

“We’ve had so much success in such a short period of time,” Sorrells says. “We want to break boundaries. There are so many forms to choose from. We’re trying to play jazz music that our generation can identify with.”

He credits Virginia Commonwealth University’s jazz program for launching them into the scene.

“I didn’t want to go to a school that didn’t have a local scene,” he says. “And some of the most dominant players — Taylor Barnett, Marcus Tenney, Randal Pharr — are also teachers.” 

The experience took him well beyond Richmond. Sorrell uniquely took part in all four exchange program trips to Kwazulu Natal University in South Africa. The program, and the concerts and recording that followed, are one of the cross-cultural local highlights of the past decade.

Fittingly, Future Prospect took shape in the crucible of his senior recital.

“[Butcher Brown drummer] Corey Fonville played in the first half of the concert,” Sorrell says, “and liked the contemporary group I put together for the second.”

Fonville wanted to share an upcoming gig with the new band. All Sorrells had to do was get the players together, choose a name and start working on the music. When the night arrived, in a display of Richmond generosity, Butcher Brown opened for them.

Since then Future Prospect — composed of Sorrells, guitarist Morgan Burrs, drummer Cleandre Foster, trumpeter Jackson Shurlds, keyboardists Ryan Moses and Jacob Ungerlieder and bassist Brandon Lane — have become local fixtures. Sorrells moved to Washington last summer, but makes the trip down frequently, sometimes several times on the same weekend.

“It’s an easy commute,” Sorrells says. “I have tons of music to learn. Two hours to drive is two hours to listen. We’re so thankful, so serious, we’re all going to give it 100.” S

Future Prospect performs Aug. 11 at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts as part of the Richmond Jazz Fest, and on Aug. 12 at Hippodrome Theatre with Kia Bennet. It also appears at the Camel on Aug. 12 for an album release party.


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