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Onyx Collective

This elusive jazz ensemble was created in 2015 by Isaiah Barr, Austin Williamson, and a cluster of young artists in New York City. Its shows are often unannounced, impromptu affairs; the interchangeable cast might perform in a basement, at a rooftop cocktail lounge, and to the street from a storefront, all in one week. Onyx released 2nd Avenue Rundown on vinyl (Supreme) in September 2016, followed by Lower East Suite Part One (Big Dada) in October 2017, and Lower East Suite Part Two in December.

  1. MAGIC GALLERY, NEW YORK

    This multipurpose art-and-community space, located at 175 Canal Street, is run by Gogy Esparza, a barber, artist, and curator, and our longtime friend and collaborator. At the very end of last summer, the gallery hosted “Magic Market,” an amazing happening with food, art, photos, music, merch, and performances from various overlapping New York communities. We have played there many times, and we recently recorded our album Lower East Suite Part Three at the space.

    *View of “Magic Market,” Magic Gallery, New York, September 17, 2017.* Photo: Taj Alexander. View of “Magic Market,” Magic Gallery, New York, September 17, 2017. Photo: Taj Alexander.
  2. SUBWAY MOON

    This project was originally an album by Roy Nathanson’s band Sotto Voce but has since expanded to become an initiative that he has brought to music schools across the world. Subway Moon encourages students to create their own original music and gives them the chance to come together with their peers and play at venues all over the world. I got to go to Munich to perform with students from the local conservatory there, and that experience shaped the way I look at collaboration and music making. It’s a beautiful vision; we all capture our moments on the Love Train through music and poetry. —Isaiah Barr

    *Subway Moon performing at the Banlieues Bleues Festival, Espace 1789, Saint-Ouen, France, March 29, 2008.* Subway Moon performing at the Banlieues Bleues Festival, Espace 1789, Saint-Ouen, France, March 29, 2008.
  3. THE STONE, NEW YORK

    One of the best places to hear live music in the world. No drinks, just music. Sadly, the Stone recently moved from its original location on Avenue C and Second Street. The Lower East Side Stone will be missed.

    *The Stone, New York, February 23, 2018.* Photo: Nina Westervelt/_New York Times_/Redux. © New York Times. The Stone, New York, February 23, 2018. Photo: Nina Westervelt/New York Times/Redux. © New York Times.
  4. KNOW WAVE

    A radio station for the downtown community of New York. The first place we recorded as a band. Controlled chaos and vibrant energy.

    *Diamond Stingily recording episode 10 of “The Diamond Stingily Show” for Know Wave, Ramiken Crucible, New York, June 1, 2017.* Photo: Alexsandra Severino. Diamond Stingily recording episode 10 of “The Diamond Stingily Show” for Know Wave, Ramiken Crucible, New York, June 1, 2017. Photo: Alexsandra Severino.
  5. MAXWELL DETER AND BRIAN BELOTT

    Maxwell is a visual artist who has worked with us since the beginning. He makes the masks and installation pieces that we use during our performances, and he has designed a ton of our graphics and flyers. Brian, also an artist, did the cover art for our debut record, 2nd Avenue Rundown (2016). These two guys really understand how to translate our sound into a kind of visual language . . . jazz records and bibble wop and colliding marching bands.

    *A member of the Onyx Collective performing in a Maxwell Deter mask, Total Refreshment Centre, London, January 31, 2018.* Photo: David Brimacombe. A member of the Onyx Collective performing in a Maxwell Deter mask, Total Refreshment Centre, London, January 31, 2018. Photo: David Brimacombe.
  6. GOSPEL MUSIC

    Gospel music has always had a special place in my heart. I grew up in church and the music I heard there set a foundation. I listened to Fred Hammond, Tye Tribbett, and James Hall. I’ve always appreciated musicians who could bring other genres into traditional and contemporary gospel music. —Austin Williamson

  7. MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK

    MoMA is one of our favorite museums in New York. One of the most inspiring shows we experienced there was last year’s Robert Rauschenberg retrospective, which included collaborative sound- and stage-based work he made with John Cage and Merce Cunningham. This show was definitely one of the best we have ever seen.

  8. JERK CHICKEN AND RED STRIPE

    The best combination there is! One of the only spots in New York for this ritual is Peppa’s Jerk Chicken in Flatbush, Brooklyn. First you pick up the chicken, then you go straight to the bodega for your “wash”—the Red Stripe. —Austin Williamson

    *Peppa’s Jerk Chicken, Flatbush location, Brooklyn, New York, August 2016.* Photo: Paul McLaren. Peppa’s Jerk Chicken, Flatbush location, Brooklyn, New York, August 2016. Photo: Paul McLaren.
  9. WALKING AROUND NEW YORK CITY

    Though we are native New Yorkers, the city has not lost its ability to surprise us. New York is the greatest place to space out and explore. You can make a movie in your head as you walk down the street and score it with music in your headphones. There is always so much to hear and see.

    *New York, January 2018.* Photo: Isaiah Barr. New York, January 2018. Photo: Isaiah Barr.
  10. TOKYO

    Dreams of going to Tokyo became reality quicker than we expected. We arrived as a seven-piece band and ended up performing at the Tokyo location of our old New York headquarters, SOMETHIN’ Jazz Club, for a Supreme event. It was completely surreal to play thousands of miles away at the same venue we started up at!One week in Japan felt like a month. They have the best cuisine in the world.