In 2019, Detroit-born drummer and composer JoVia Armstrong recruited trusted musical collaborators to support her dissertation research on time-based sound processing (e.g., reverb and delay) at the University of California, Irvine. That contingent became the Eunoia Society, the flexibly rostered ensemble that joined Armstrong on one of 2022’s most gripping debut albums, The Antidote Suite, released by flutist Nicole Mitchell on her Black Earth Music label. Armstrong and Mitchell are colleagues many times over: Armstrong has performed in Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble, both women have served on the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians’ executive team, and they teach in the same department at the University of Virginia.
On Eunoia’s upcoming second album, Inception (due June 30 via Black Earth), the group morphs into a Detroit all-star combo: bassist Damon Warmack, guitarist Sasha Kashperko, and mainstay violinist Leslie DeShazor. Armstrong leads from behind her custom setup: sitting on and playing a cajón with her right hand, while her left hand and feet stay busy with an array of cymbals, hand-percussion instruments, and electronics. While Inception enlists fewer personnel than The Antidote Suite (which features Armstrong, DeShazor, and six guests), the new record often sounds denser. Where the first album honors Eunoia’s founding spirit of atmospheric experimentation, Inception displays a more distinct sound and identity, etched out through potent, ground-shifting grooves and knockout solos—including some so striking I paused the audio and replayed them immediately. Armstrong, who lived in Chicago for many years, plays three public gigs before the album’s release: the Eunoia Society’s sold-out June 5 show at the Green Line Performing Arts Center, an open rehearsal at Midnight Tea in the Fine Arts Building on June 4 at 6 PM (to accommodate the overflow from the sold-out date), and an outdoor concert at Kenwood Gardens on June 17 at 6 PM with a different group (a trio of Armstrong, saxophonist Isaiah Collier, and guitarist Marco Villarreal).
JoVia Armstrong & Eunoia Society Mon 6/5, 7 PM, Green Line Performing Arts Center, 329 E. Garfield, sold out, all ages
JoVia Armstrong Trio Sat 6/17, 6 PM, Kenwood Gardens, 6929 S. Kenwood, free, all ages