Jax multi-instrumentalist Jonah Pierre drops a timely (and funky) call for introspection
Jonah Pierre’s been up to something. Easily recognizable with his close-crop afro and effortless cool, the Jacksonville-based pianist and percussionist has become a fixture in the local music scene, sharing the stage with the region’s top-tier jazz players, as well as performing with the Afro-Cuban salsa band, LPT (disclosure: I also perform with LPT). As busy and in-demand as Pierre may be, he continues to seek out new challenges, and is doing so lately via a timely and funky solo project called Bronero.
Under his new nom de plume, Pierre has amassed more than ten songs, quietly releasing them via Soundcloud. His latest single, though, “Life and Death of a Nation” sets a clear tone for what can be expected from Bronero.
Inventively interspersed with James Baldwin quotes from the author and intellectual’s legendary debate with William F. Buckley in 1965, “Life and Death” falls deep into the pocket.A self-made beat, overlayed with keyboard grooves that recall the G-funk essence of ’90s-West-Coast flavor; the production is all Pierre from top to bottom. And it’s an all-out head bobber.
As a project, Bronero is no Jekyll/Hyde trip for Pierre. He’s not looking to confuse nor bewilder those that know him as Jonah. “The name (Bronero) started as a nickname that some friends were calling me a few years back. There is no real mystery behind it,” Pierre says. He adds that he chose to adopt the name for his solo work mostly because he wanted to draw a veritable distinction between the work he had done in the past and the music he was about to embark on.
“I knew that this (Bronero) was going to be a big departure for me, not only stylistically, but production-wise, as well.”
Bronero is the amalgamation of Pierre’s musical prowess, vast knowledge of American literature (he majored in English at Oberlin College) and his desire to confront the current social landscape. “I started working with the Baldwin quotes last year as the Black Lives Matter marches were going on. His words are as relevant today as ever,” Pierre says. He has a trove of quotes and recordings from Zora Neale Hurston that he has worked into songs from his live set and plans to record and release by the end of 2021.
Pierre is quick to say that he doesn’t want to fence Bronero in and make it solely a protest project. “For me using these quotes is about working and rearranging the material so that I can shine a new light onto something that I wish more folks knew about. Many of the Hurston recordings were made right here in Jacksonville. There is an opportunity to create a sacred space here,” Pierre says. “But beyond that, there are a ton of other things Bronero can do.”