Miguel Atwood-Ferguson on his giant 50-song album: ‘I wanted to approach it like an experiment’

The composer and arranger has worked with everyone from Ray Charles to Rihanna. Now he’s stepping into the spotlight with a mammoth three and a half hour debut LP … and that’s just volume one

Chances are you have already heard Miguel Atwood-Ferguson’s work. You may not know who the LA-based composer and strings player is, but if you’ve listened to contemporary American music or watched recent TV and film from the US, you will have likely heard the sound of his bow sweeping across orchestral strings.

Softly spoken and typically dressed down in a washed-out T-shirt and sweatpants, Atwood-Ferguson is the unassuming presence behind orchestrations and performances for everyone from Ray Charles to Stevie Wonder, via Quincy Jones, Rihanna, Dr Dre and the Roots. In the past decade, he has become a key part of the west coast beats and jazz scene that coalesced around artists such as the producer Flying Lotus, saxophonist Kamasi Washington and bassist Thundercat, all releasing on Flying Lotus’s label Brainfeeder. Bridging the worlds of classical, jazz, hip-hop and pop, Atwood-Ferguson – who has more than 600 recordings to his name and in excess of 2,500 live shows played in the past two decades – is the go-to guy to provide spaces of instrumental beauty in busy sound worlds.

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