Led by Baltimore transplant, Alex “Sheriff” Ariff, The Wali Sanga gleams a collective spirit owed as much to Sun Ra’s cosmic cool as Michael McDonald’s yacht rock bops.


Morphing rabidly according to the unforgiving laws of NYC heavy-hitter availability, they’re a loose crew of local jazz and r&b aces. All stars in their own right, wracking up regional reverence, global touring gigs, and RIAA accolades.

On their crowdfunded debut album, The Wali Sanga offers a lens into their laser-eyed  2016 sessions. Recorded almost entirely live at Brooklyn’s now defunct Rubbertracks Studios, Big Ears is a split snapshot of Ariff’s emotionally-culled jazz and pop chops and the band’s dedication to pristine, nearly symphonic, execution at his helm.

Mixed by Grammy Award winning engineer Nic Hard (Snarky Puppy), Big Ears is a vulnerable, ambitious, and deeply soulful statement from some of the city’s most decorated musicians, cultivating a sacred space to celebrate its growing complexity.

His first project since completing the ritual pilgrimage to NYC’s bloodsport of a musical gauntlet, Ariff stacks lessons from the road, deeply intimate memories, and personal tales of triumph over transitional traps, into eight polished, accessible, and air-tight, romps through a heady palette of high-flying jazz spirits and boogie funk forefathers.

Expanding on the the album’s title, Ariff sees it as a universal salve, a sentiment echoed by the songwriter’s earliest instructors. Folks so dedicated to music as a vessel of communication that they plastered the word “listen” on the board behind them so that every time students popped their searching eyes up, an unmistakable reminder to keep themselves locked-in to the lesson was effectively floating overhead.

So why Big Ears? Because you can’t learn if you can’t hear what’s being taught. Read: just shut up and listen.