Monday, January 18, 2010

here comes another

"Timbasa" is coming out! The release date is February 9th and Chris DiGirolamo who does promotion for Jazzheads is beginning to send out press releases and CD's, so I might as well do my bit. Timbasa is my 6th record for Jazzheads, the record label of my dreams. Total artistic freedom, emotional and musical support and a deep conviction that my music is worth putting out-- record after record in any genre that suits my moods and my abilities. Although I have recorded a wider range of music than my records on Jazzheads indicate, Randy Klein, Jazzhead's president, has never asked me to moderate or alter my recordings in typical jazz record company fashion-- make the same record over and over again. Instead I have been given the rare freedom that reflects that afforded to some of the very best musicians in the 60's, freedom to follow my muse and develop my music using as a wide a palette as the availability of musicians permits.

My first record for Jazzheads "Algo Más" was a radical departure from standard forms, mixing Afro-Cuban folkloric music with the contemporary electric guitar of master guitarist Jean Paul Bourelly and a choir of flutes. My next album, "O Nosso Amor" switched concept and venue, moving to Brazil for a quintet album of Brazilian standards and originals. It was a jazz album, but rooted in authentic Brazilian forms played by the best Brazilian musicians in New York, Romero Lubambo, Nilson Matta, Paulo Braga and Guilerhmo Franke. It was followed by an album of mainstream Latin jazz, "Con Alma," with Latin Jazz veteran pianist Mark Levine, a straight-ahead album "Straight No Chaser with guitarist Dave Stryker and most recently, an edgy Brazilian album with percussionist Cyro Baptista opening up a range of new possibilities for Brazilian jazz.

But there are continuities. Both "Algo Más" and "Con Alma" drew upon the brilliance of Pedrito Martinez, a master of Cuban drumming in all of its forms and the winner of the Thelonious Monk Award for hand-drumming the only time such an award has been given."Timbasa" is a album that Pedrito made possible. He picked the musicians from among his closest associates and led them through 16 hours of non-stop recording of some of the most amazing Afro-Cuban Jazz that anyone has ever heard. First the guys:

That's Mauricio Herrera who played drums, timbales and guiro, Ogduardo Diaz who played bongos and batá, me, concert, alto and bass flutes, pianist Axel Tosca Laugart, Pedrito who played congas, batá, timbales, bell and chekere and Panagiotis Andreou who played electric bass with vocals.

The recording came about because of mutual attraction. Pedrito suggested I do another project with him and I jumped at the chance. We had run into each other a few times, at a memorial service and Marty Cohen's (the founder of LP Percussion) birthday. I was over my head in recording. I had just recorded Jazz Brasil with Kenny Barron, Lua e Sol had still not been released and I was already thinking of recording tangos (a project that has morphed into two albums, as I will indicate shortly). But I could not resist Pedrito's interest in following up "Algo Más" and "Con Alma" with something 'completely different' as the Monte Python folks like to say. My response to Pedrito was that if he could find a piano player and bass player who played as good as he does, I'd be open to another project. He assured me that he had exactly the right people. I told him to bring two other drummers. Within a few days Pedrito was back to me, we could get the guys he wanted for two days, March 30-31, 2008. Two days before the session, Pedrito called me and told me he could only get the musicians for the 30th. I asked him whether he was sure we could record in one day ("Con Alma was also recorded in one long session) and he assured me we could. The musicians he picked were not only the best musicians around, but they were his musicians, the guys who he played with regularly. And furthermore, he had some material already worked out with the drummers that would be the spine of the project.

I decided that I would leave the details to be provided by the musical context. That is, we would just go into the studio and play. I told Pedrito that the musicians could bring in original material and I picked a handful of my all-time favorite Latin Jazz standards. The result is a strange and yet familiar album. The standards we ended up playing are as familiar to Latin Jazz enthusiasts as any songs could be, 'Milestones,' 'Footprints,' 'Watermelon Man' and 'Caravan.' Axel contributed a Chucho Valdez composition, 'A Ernesto,' Pedrito, two originals, 'Encuentro' and the title track 'Timbasa,' plus my tune from the original Cuban Roots, 'Just Another Guajira' and an Afro-Cuban rendering of classic Turkish folk melody suggested by Panigiotis that we call, 'Kavlakari Cubano.'

The musicians are on fire. The drum routines are complex and precise, the soloing spectacular and the swing is just killing. Beyond superlatives, I can't hope to describe the music, and fortunately I don't have to. The record is there for everyone to hear for themselves. I'll be putting up a few tracks on myspace on the release date. Until then you can click on the link and enjoy the tracks I have up from my album with Omar Sosa, "Tales From the Earth" and revisit tracks from "Lua e Sol" and "Straight No Chaser."

Bobby Sanabria was kind enough to write the liner notes, which he ends by saying, "Mark's musical encounters continue. As you listen to this CD he is already working on the next one, and the next..." How right he is! The project that I have been calling "Todo Corazón," the album of danzones and tangos written for me by Aruán Ortiz and Pablo Aslan, has morphed into two albums. The danzones sound so good that I can't resist doing an entire album with strings, and the only thing to do with half an album of tangos is do the other half. So the tango's will be "Todo Corazon" and I'm waiting for Aruán to write more arrangements for an album that will be called "El Cumbanchero." For those who recognize the name of the tune the direction for the rest of the album is indicated, burning, up-tempo charanga!