- Open to the Public
"Freedom First" is a groundbreaking collaboration by Catalan jazz pianist Albert Marquès and writer, activist and poet Keith LaMar, who has spent the past 30 years in solitary confinement on death row in Ohio for a crime he didn’t commit. At each Freedom First concert, LaMar performs live by phone from the Ohio State Penitentiary, melding his electrifying spoken word poetry with contemporary jazz played by a stellar group of international musicians. More than simply a jazz concert, Freedom First is a call for justice, an invitation to renew one’s faith in humanity, and an emotional ride from what LaMar calls “the depths of hell” to a communal experience of joy and hope. Freedom First has performed for audiences on three continents to wide acclaim, raising awareness of LaMar’s cause and to the wider issue of incarceration and the death penalty in the United States. In 2022, LaMar and Marquès released Freedom First (Say It Loud Records, 2022), the first album in history by an artist from death row. The project began in 2020 during the BLM protests as a series of street concerts with dozens of musicians on the streets of New York playing the jazz standards that helped LaMar survive long decades in solitary confinement, with LaMar himself reciting poetry live from prison via telephone. LaMar was sentenced to death in 1993, and is scheduled to be executed in 2027. As a result of Freedom First and the wider Justice for Keith LaMar campaign, LaMar’s case has gained international attention in international media, including The New York Times, Le Figaro, El País and NPR. Marquès and LaMar recently received the "Most Innovative Project" award from Time Out magazine. Freedom First and JFKL also won an award for innovation at the 8th World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Berlin, Germany.