Khris Royal’s music is a Jazz-backed combination of styles that bleed and blend into a smooth, exciting sound. He grew up in New Orleans East and was “thankful for the long ride” to and from school everyday where he could put his headphones on and listen to a little bit of everything along the way. It built his strong Jazz foundation and invested him with a lifelong lust for new music, styles and sounds. Only twenty-four years old, but accomplished with technical sophistication and a maturity that has caught the attention of New Orleans greats young and old, he will release his first album next Friday, September 30.
We planned to meet at Khris’s favorite bar, the Maple Leaf—a dark dive on Oak St. in Uptown New Orleans, known for bringing in good shows. My experience with musicians is enough that I counted on Khris to be late, especially since the man had his wisdom teeth recently yanked out and was likely rattled. So I settled myself into a beer to pass the time going over my notes. But Khris soldiered in on time and glad to be there. He had his long dreadlocks tied back and spoke with easy confidence, walking me through his tonal journey to the present.
Khris was young when he started out picking around on the keys, but it was a trombone he wanted. He had to get over it quick though when the music man at the store told him his arms were too short and set a sax in his hands.
Heavy with born talent Khris auditioned for and entered the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts. There he was able to build a musical curriculum around his interests and learn from seasoned musicians. He was accepted early into Berklee on a full ride scholarship. After graduation he spent some time in Los Angeles playing music and making connections.
Playing with New Orleans stars like Big Sam and Galactic, Khris has proven his excellent musicianship. He’s caught the eye of George Porter Jr., working as his sole horn player, and Khris tours with West Coasters Rebelution. He’s recorded with several prominent contemporary hip-hop and R and B artists, notably The Game, Nelly, and Mary J. Blige.
Two years ago Khris found a tight band to back him and dubbed them “Dark Matter,” a name he thought of after watching a Star Trek episode. He’s the only horn player by design—his effort to stay close to the New Orleans tradition but remain outside the brass fueled sound of many other acts. They’ve spent their time since hitting all the best spots in the city, gathering a solid following, and polishing an impressive live show. This past summer they scored a prime slot at the Hangout Festival in Gulf Shores, AL, jamming on the Grooveshark stage and winning fans on the coast.
Now with their sound honed and the album recorded Khris wants fans new and veteran to come away with a sense of the eclectic. Always a follower of different genres he has stretched out further in recent years and expanded his sound with elements from electronic and dub to rock. Of his willingness to give any kind of music a chance to pass by his ears or through the filter of his songwriting chops, he says it better and more succinct than I can: “we’re not a band that’s afraid to play a ballad.”
The fresh Jazz tunes of Khris Royal and Dark Matter will be packaged and sold for the first time on the 30th at Khris’s favorite venue, the Maple Leaf on Oak. Always writing, Khris will not only play through the album, but he’ll be trying out a few new songs for his next project. Come see a good show and see the band off before they head out on their first big tour across the country.