Cleveland-born poet, writer, and activist Keith LaMar, 53, has spent the last year hard at work writing and performing new material for his first album, FREEDOM FIRST…from his cell at the Ohio State Penitentiary, where he has spent almost 30 years in solitary confinement on death row for a crime he didn’t commit. A collaboration with Brooklyn-based, Catalan pianist and composer Albert Marquès, FREEDOM FIRST is the first album in history by an artist on death row. LaMar is scheduled to be executed by the State of Ohio on November 16, 2023.
Since the first FREEDOM FIRST concert in August 2020 at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn with 25 jazz musicians playing for free, crowds have flocked to experience its electric energy and passion. Each concert features a different group of performers, grounded in the original BLM street protests that were the foundation of FREEDOM FIRST .
This concert brings together a diverse group of international musicians playing jazz and protest music, accompanying Keith LaMar's spoken word poetry. From Coltrane classics like "Acknowledgement" to new compositions incorporating influences from hip hop to free jazz, FREEDOM FIRST is a coming together of urgency and agency, a call to people to stand up and speak out against brutality.
Keith LaMar, Albert Marquès