Since arriving as a bandleader on 2008's Prelude to Cora, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire proved a forward-thinking musician. He surveys post-bop, ballads, free jazz, and funk with equanimous enthusiasm, mashing them up seamlessly; he presents himself in virtually every situation as a bold leader as well as a sympathetic sideman and collaborator. His egalitarian view of music, from classical to hip-hop and all stops in between, offers a portrait of a musician capable of redrawing his instrument's role in jazz. At 19, Akinmusire toured as a member of Steve Coleman and the Five Elements; it proved formative in shaping his future aesthetic vision. At 28, his second album and Blue Note debut, 2011's When the Heart Emerges Glistening, revealed the already mature, expansive dimensions in his playing, writing, and arranging that took modal post-bop into uncharted territory. Since then, each subsequent album has offered a very different textural and musical emphasis: 2014's The Imagined Savior Is Far Easier to Paint included guest vocalists Becca Stevens, Cold Specks, and Theo Bleckman, and the Osso String Quartet; 2017's post-bop quartet date, A Rift in Decorum: Live at the Village Vanguard, was celebrated as one of the finest jazz outings of the year.
The following year he issued Origami Harvest. The album was the result of a commission from curators Judd Greenstein of Manhattan's Ecstatic Music Festival and Kate Nordstrum of St. Paul's Liquid Music Series. The premise was, "what's the craziest idea you have?" Akinmusire's reply was that he wanted to create a project about extremes; putting things that are seemingly opposite right next to one another. He enlisted the string unit Mivos Quartet, and art-rap expatriate Kool A.D. alongside his own quartet, and pitted contemporary classical music against deconstructed hip-hop with bursts of left-field jazz, funk, spoken word, and soul.