Published on December 1st, 2022

Moonchild by Taryn Dudley

Take three musicians who met studying jazz at college in Southern California, add some sparkling earth-fairy vibes, and you get Moonchild, a trio making intimate r&b and establishing themselves as 21st Century alt-soul greats. In ten years together these indie darlings have notched five LPs including this year’s cameo-dotted “Starfruit” and one very delightful NPR Tiny Desk Concert from 2019 with over 4.5 million YouTube views.

Moonchild’s influences are hard to miss: Lead singer Amber Navran’s velvety vocal turn on “Money,” from the Tiny Desk set and the group’s 2019 album, “Little Ghost,” immediately evokes neo-soul songstress Jill Scott — who might feel the same, as Scott has praised the group and brought them tour in 2020 as her opener. The lyric speaks eloquently to hustle culture and Millennial burnout: “There’s coffee in the coffee maker / You’ve always got so much shit to do / Still paralyzed by expectations / A dream’s supposed to get you through.”

Judging by their live-in-studio gigs for Tiny Desk and a Brownswood Basement session in London in 2017 for DJ and record label owner Gilles Peterson, Moonchild love playing live and working together. It’s a treat to watch Navran sing joyfully, keyboardist Andris Mattson lean into his classic Fender Rhodes tones, and triple-threat Max Bryk — keys, reeds, percussion — jamming on another keyboard with a saxophone dangling from his neck, waiting to go.

Aware of themselves as white musicians working in a black idiom, Moonchild also make a point of linking to black-owned businesses through their website and supporting anti-racist organizations including The Bail Project, Theory of Enchantment and Color of Change.

“Starfruit,” an album about love and its trials, adds guests to the jazzy mix for the first time. Lalah Hathaway, daughter of soul music icon Donny Hathway and an established singer in her own right, adds quiet smolder to Navran’s airy confidential on “Tell Him.” Another next-gen talent, Alex Isley, is a vocal soulmate to Navran on the heartfelt “You Got One,” and rapper Ill Camille drops a candid cameo on the rapturous “Need That.”

Moonchild and Raquel Lily perform 7pm Sunday Dec. 4 at Revolution Live in Fort Lauderdale. ~ Olivia Feldman