Playlist (September/October 2019) | Music reviewsª
Global Godwin Louis
(Blue Room Music)
When wanderlust coincides with discovery, great things can happen. When it is your job to travel to perform, it should be your duty to discover all that you are in the context of new vistas. Saxophone sideman to the stars Godwin Louis has travelled to over one hundred countries, and focused his discovery on the history of African and diaspora music across the world. His aptly titled debut album Global, a two-CD package, features “compositions that emerged out of research that he performed in Africa and Latin America on the music exported out of Africa, to the rest of the world via the transatlantic slave trade.” Audacious in scope, adept in execution, this Haitian-American has compiled a record featuring jazz syncopation that juxtaposes with African rhythm and Latin American voices and Antillean grooves, making this a testament to the idea of connectedness in modern music. By joining all the musical dots, Louis spiritually finds his way home.
MDR Jonathan Michel
Haitian-American bassist Jonathan Michel calls his debut album MDR “an entry into the world of music as me. I think it’s a great representation.” And with that declaration, Michel, along with drummer Jeremy Dutton and vibraphonist Joel Ross, plays trio-based jazz that becomes an extension of the live gig scene this musician has been a part of for much of his career. The album touches on a range of genres that identify with the Caribbean-born in the diaspora. Jazz, spirituals, Haitian folk songs, R&B are all distilled through that enhanced prism with small-unit playing; bass and drum anchor a space for the vibraphone to resonate. The bass is never far away, and we hear why Michel is the leader on this album, with the old Negro spiritual “Wade in the Water” taking a frenetic spin in tandem with the improvisations of the vibraphone. Fellow Haitian child-of-the-diaspora Melanie Charles adds her soul-inspired voice on the bookend tracks.
Cimarrón Josean Jacobo & Tumbao
Pianist Josean Jacobo has been heralded as the “Ambassador of Afro-Dominican Jazz,” and with that understanding, the listener must negotiate a minefield of ideas and ideologies on “Dominicanness” and the image of the island as a tourist playground. On Cimarrón, Jacobo, along with the band Tumbao — a unique combo of two saxes, drums, and percussion — present a solid interface of music born in the American melting pot of New Orleans and traditional folkloric rhythms from African-descended natives of Hispaniola. His piano soars and floats on the ten songs here, while the polyrhythms of the hand drums and other percussion give credence to a history of solid representation of the music of African souls who have mingled and transformed Spanish-derived sounds to create what we today know as salve, congos, bachata, and more. The language of jazz has broadened in this context, and this album is a distinctive beginning for new listeners.