Virtuoso jazz guitarist Steve Khan continues his enchanting combinations
of jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythms on Patchwork.
In this case, Khan has taken jazz classics and recreated them with
harmonic and rhythmic modifications. The jazz artists chosen include Thelonious
Monk, Ornette Coleman, Joe Henderson, Alan Jay Lerner, Keith Jarrett, and Bobby
Khan has built one of the most formidable rhythm sections in
contemporary American jazz, featuring an exquisite blend of Afro-Cuban rhythms;
masterfully arranged and recorded.
Khan’s colleague, keyboardist, composer and arranger Rob Mounsey plays a bigger role on Patchwork with inspired string and brass arrangements as well as superb electric piano and synth work.
Highlights include the opening track, Thelonious Monk and Kenny Clarke’s “Epistrophy,” a high energy electric guitar piece with a creative rhythm section of drum set, Afro-Cuban drums and bass; and “Bouquet” by Ornette Coleman, with Khan acoustic guitar. This piece is turned into a lovely down tempo bolero with exquisite Spanish and Latin American-influenced guitar work, delicate drums and percussion, and beautiful orchestrations.
Other high points include Khan’s composition “Naan Issue,” a delicious bluesy cha cha cha; the lively “A Shade of Jade” (Joe Henderson) featuring a superb flugelhorn performance by Randy Brecker; the timeless Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane piece “Too Late Now” transformed into a bolero-paced ballad with outstanding guitar work, magnificent orchestrations and subtle rhythms; and the fusion-leaning “T. & T.,” where Khan turns this Ornette Coleman composition into high energy Latin jazz rooted in a Mozambique rhythm.
Lastly, a tune that captivated me is the outstanding rendering of Keith Jarret’s “The Journey Home.” This is the longest track on the album, with various sections. It opens with a dreamy slow tempo segment with Khan back on acoustic guitar, delivering delicious interplay with the electric piano, and then moving forward to lively Afro-Cuban beats and electric guitar, beautiful wordless vocals. And then the music slows down and concludes with a truly excellent acoustic guitar and synthesizer duet over a layer of percussion and masterfully-crafted orchestrations.
The lineup on Patchwork includes Steve Khan on guitars and vocals; Rubén Rodríguez on baby bass and electric bass; Dennis Chambers on drums; Marc Quiñones on timbales, bongos, percussion; Bobby Allende on conga; Rob Mounsey on keyboards and orchestrations: Randy Brecker on flugelhorn; Bob Mintzer on tenor saxophone; Tatiana Parra on vocals; and Jorge Estrada on keyboards and arrangements.
Dawn Drake and ZapOte – Nightshade (Dawn Drake, 2019)
Nightshade is the new album from American bassist, percussionist, vocalist and composer Dawn Drake and her band called Zapote. This masterfully-crafted recording combines funk, edgy and futuristic trip hop, Afro-Cuban rhythms, high energy Afrobeat, and jazz with lyrics in English, Spanish and French.
Dawn Drake describes Nightshade as more ambient and moody than previous works. “Some of the themes that appear on this new album are looking at darkness or depression and the symbology of coming out of it. For this album, I wanted to write more instrumental songs and focus more on the compositional aspects of the music to represent that process, rather than lyrical themes with chordal accompaniment.”
Nightshade is a splendid album by a talented artist bursting into in the international world music scene.
Dawn Drake and ZapOte are set to perform on December 21, 2019 at Shrine World Music Venue in New York City, New York, USA.
El Olimpo De Los Orishas is an irresistible global electronica album by Cuban musician Kumar Sublevao-Beat also known as Afrosideral. A former rapper, Kumar embraced world music when he moved to Spain. El Olimpo de los Orishas is a superb tribute to Yoruban music and deities that are present in some parts of Cuba and Brazil.
Kumar combines cutting edge electronic beats and samples; Afro-Cuban chants; Cuban and Brazilian rhythms rooted in African traditions; electric guitars and bass; and more.
El Olimpo De Los Orishas includes an impressive cast of Cuban and Brazilian musicians: Ariel Brínguez, Martín Meléndez, Jurandir Santana, Dreiser Durruthy, Sexto Sentido, Doctor Matanza and Arema Arega.
Two iconic artists, guitarist Carlos Santana and vocalist Santana teamed up to record a superb album titled Africa Speaks .
Carlos Santana brought to the table his wide-ranging experience in mixing Afro-Cuban music with rock, jazz and other global music influences. Afro-Spanish singer Buika is deeply influenced by the African music of her parents, flamenco, jazz, soul and Afropop.
Together, Santana and Buika deliver a remarkable album, where two unique sounds meet and intertwine: Santana’s highly recognizable electric guitar and Buika’s distinctive voice and singing style.
Santana was a pioneer in world fusion, combining Cuban music and rock in his early albums. Now, rock, African, flamenco and Afro-Latin sounds come together in an explosive mix on Africa Speaks.
“This is music that I hold so dearly, and it’s not a stranger to me,” says Carlos Santana. “The rhythms, grooves and melodies from Africa have always inspired me. It’s in my DNA. If you take your inspiration from many, it’s called research. I researched this beautiful music from the African continent. They have a frequency that’s all their own. It’s funny, because when I play in Africa, people say, ‘How do you know our music?’ And I say, ‘How can I not know what I love?’”
Personnel: Carlos Santana on lead electric and rhythm guitars, backing vocals and percussion; Buika on lead vocals; Laura Mvula on backing vocals; Cindy Blackman Santana, on drums; Salvador Santana on keyboards; Tommy Anthony on rhythm guitar; Benny Rietveld on bass; Karl Perazzo on timbales, congas and percussion; David K. Mathews on Hammond B3 organ and keyboards; Andy Vargas on backing vocals; and Ray Greene on backing vocals.
Africa Speaks brings out of the best of Santana and Buika: memorable guitars and exceptionally expressive vocals rooted in African traditions. One of Santana’s finest albums in many years.
Batá drumming is getting more and more popular these days. With a lot of the masters who transmitted the tradition of batá drumming having passed away, the one living master today is Román Diaz, born in Cuba, now residing in New York City.
In Cuba, Román performed professionally with the Cuban legend of Afro Cuban folklore, female vocalist Mercerditas Valdés. She was known for her grand knowledge and recordings of Afro-Cuban folklore and Orisha songs. She recorded with the late master batalero Jesús Pérez. (batá master Francisco Aguabella’s dear friends from Cuba.)
Merceditas Valdés is also renowned for having been a part of Pablo “Okilakpa” Roches Batá Ensemble in Havana, Cuba that included masters of masters, Pablo Roche, Trinidad Terregoza, Raúl Diaz and a young okónkolo player Francisco Aguabella. This ensemble was unsurpassable and not many bataleros or musicians can say that they performed with them.
To perform with one of their members, as in Merceditas Valdés is in itself “without words.” Merceditas Valdés spread Afro-Cuban Folkloric history and knowledge, along with her vocals, lyrics, dance steps and drummers that performed and recorded with her.
Román Diaz was one of those drummers, relocating from Cuba to New York, to furthermore blossom his career and to spread the word, music, history and Afro-Cuban folklore to New York City and the world in its entirety.
Román has performed and directed many ensembles, too many to mention in this interview and has continued to perform and direct ensembles here in the United States, previously in Europe and now in New York City.
Let’s see what Román Diaz has to say about his life and times in Cuba,
and times with Merceditas Valdés and his present movement in New York
Román, can you tell me a little about your past, where you were born.
I was born in the City of Havana, Municipality of Central Havana in the Barrio “La Victoria”.
Can you tell me if any of your family members had a musical history or were musicians?
I had an uncle that was a percussionist/drummer and my grandfather a trovador (troubadour).
Román, can you tell me how you started to drum or become a drummer in Cuba?
I used to go to the comparsas (groups of musicians and costumed dancers that participate in parades and celebrations) and play bell. It was a friend from school, that motivated me to play in the comparsas. He lived in Solar de Africa, his name was Conrado Lam.
I would like to ask you about the vocalist whom you used to perform with in Cuba, legendary female Afro-Cuban Folkloric Vocalist, Merceditas Valdés.
Well, it was always a dream for me to play with Merceditas. As a young kid I would dream, just to play with her (Merceditas).
Yoruba Andabo (an Afro-Cuban Folkloric Group) that I was performing with, she came to our group to sing. Yoruba Andabo was already formed, it was formed in the 1960’s. I was given this opportunity to perform with her. (since she was in our group).
Who first started you on batá?
I learned with Humberto La Pelicula. He lives in Italy. When we lived in Cuba I used to go to Mariano #110, 10 de Octubre (October), that is where I learned.
What does the future bring for Román Diaz?
At the moment, I try to play in the best position that I can perform in, to keep studying music (drumming), because there may be something that I could learn.
The above video is Juan De Dios, filmed by the late Jerry Shiligi, courtesy of Michael Pluznick who also went to Cuba. This was from the year 1985. I, Les Moncada, along with other San Francisco Bay Area musicians sponsored the Cuba trip. This was at the cabaret inside Hotel Cabri, Salon Rojo (in the Red Salon). Román Diaz is playing tumbadora (conga) , he is the drummer in the middle.
Musical Credits for Román Diaz
La comparsa Los Marqueses de Atarés. La Habana. 1983-86.
La comparsa Componedores de Batea. La Habana. 1983-86.
Escuela Nacional de Instructores de Arte. La Habana. 1983-86.
Grupo Raíces Profundas. La Habana. 1984-86. Juan de Díos, director.
Grupo “T con E”. La Habana. 1986-88. Lázaro Valdés, director.
Concerts in Panamá; Madrid and Barajas (Spain); Peru.
Orquesta Sublime. La Habana. 1988-89.
Grupo Yoruba Andabo. La Habana. 1989-1995.
Performances in Bogota, Colombia; Toronto, Canadá.
Grupo Añakí. La Habana. 1995. “Pancho Quinto,” director.
Escuela de percusión de Zurich de Billy ‘Cotún’. 1995.
Private percussion school. 1995.
Ekpe-Abakuá encuentro en Paris, 2007. Musée Quai Branly.
Percussionist, United States of America:
“Domingos de Rumba,” Esquina Habanera, Union City, New Jersey. 1999-2003
David Oquendo, director.
Collaboration with the Horacio ‘El Negro’ Hernández album, New York City, 2000.
Grupo “Omi Odara.” ‘Román Díaz, director. Lecture demonstration with Dr. Ivor Miller. Amherst College, Amherst, MA. April 2002. Funded by the Georges Lurcy Lecture Series Fund and the Willis D. Wood Fund, Amherst College.
Grupo “Omi Odara.” ‘Román Díaz, director. Lecture demonstration with Dr. Ivor Miller. The Bildner Center for Cuban Studies, CUNY Graduate Center, New York City. March 2002.
Grupo “Omi Odara.” ‘Román Díaz, director. Lecture demonstration with Dr. Ivor Miller. African Studies, Columbia University, New York City. February 2002.
Collaboration with Juan-Carlos Formell. New York City, 2003. “Misión Cubana.” Club Jazz Standard, Manhattan.
Grupo “Omi Odara.” ‘Román Díaz, director. Lecture demonstration with Dr. Ivor Miller. A multi-disciplinary conference. April 2003. DePaul University, Chicago. Sponsored by the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.
Lecture demonstration conwith Dr. Ivor Miller. Román Díaz, singer. Black Studies: Methodology, Pedagogy, and Research. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. New York Public Library, February 2003.
International Festival of Yoruba Culture. San Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. 2004.
International Ekpe Festival. Calabar, Nigeria. December 2004. Collaboration with Dr. Ivor Miller. Sponsored by the Department of Tourism of Cross River State. Donald Duke, Governor.
Collaboration with Oriente López, pianista. Garden City, New Jersey. 2004.
Collaboration with percussionist Giovanni Hidalgo, singer Marlon Simón, saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera. Philadelphia, 2004.
Collaboration with Paquito D’Rivera, director. “Obra Panamericana.” 2004. New York City; Newark, NJ.
Grupo “Omi Odara.” Lincoln Center, New York City. Román Díaz, director. August 2003. August 2005.
Latin Percussion representative. 2001. 2005.
“Noches Cubanas.” World Music Institute, New York University. April 2005. With Candido Camero, ‘Chocolate’ Armenteros; Orlando ‘Punilla’ Ríos.
Espíritu de la Habana, with Jane Burnett. Toronto, Canada. Won Juno award in 1992.
Rumbos de la rumba with Pedrito Martínez, New York (2009)
Okobio Enyenisón with Proyecto Enyenisón Enkama (2009)
I would like to thank the Maestro Román Diaz for his patience & time he spent for this interview, Román is from Cuba and speaks Spanish. Therefore, I translated the interview as in many cases. Gracias Román for his preservation of the batá and Afro-Cuban folklore.
Me gustaría agradecer al Maestro Román Díaz por el tiempo que dedicó a esta entrevista y gracias por la preservación del batá y el folklore afrocubano.
Angelique Kidjo – Celia (Verve/Universal Music France, 2019)
As a young girl, Angelique Kidjo was inspired by Cuban singer and salsa star Celia Cruz. Angelique’s new album, Celia , recreates some of Celia’s most popular songs. It is also a celebration of Afro-Latin music as it includes salsa, Afro-Cuban and Afro-Peruvian material.
For this recording, Angelique sings in Spanish and chose some of the most Yoruban-influenced songs by Celia Cruz. Angelique’s band features well known musicians from Benin, the United States, the UK and Nigeria, including Nigerian Afrobeat trailblazer Tony Allen on drums, American musician Meshell Ndegeocello on bass, British jazz outfit Sons of Kemet, and acclaimed Beninese act Gangbé Brass Band.
Celia is a colorful and beautifully-delivered tribute to one
of the essential vocalists from the 20th century.
Voy is the third album by the multifaceted Eme Alfonso. She is one of the most extraordinary young artists in Cuba. She’s a singer-songwriter and composer that grew up in one of the most influential music families in Cuba. Her parents founded Síntesis, a highly innovative band that started as progressive rock band that brought together classic English progressive rock and Cuban music. Síntesis evolved into a formidable group that mixed Afro-Cuban music and jazz-rock and Eme grew up listening to this band and later joined it as a very young singer and keyboardist.
Eme has been involved in the celebration of the Cuban melting
pot, a cultural diversity project called “Para Mestizar, where she celebrates
Cuba’s African and Spanish roots and other influences.
Voy was recorded in Havana (Cuba) and Sao Paulo (Brazil). The
recording includes some of the finest musicians in the Cuban music scene and a superb
Masterfully-crafted and elegant, Voy showcases the talent of
a groundbreaking artist that incorporates roots music which is not nostalgic, and
looks forward, creating an edgy sound that injects captivating Afro-Cuban and
Afro-Brazilian percussion, rock, soul, jazz and European music elements.
Eme Alfonso writes beautiful, charming poetic songs that
hook you in. Her exceptionally
expressive vocals are primarily in Spanish although she also adds Yoruba
chants with choruses provided by her parents, who are regarded are the best
chorus singers in Cuba.
Personnel: Eme Alfonso on vocals; Jorge Aragón on piano and
keyboard; Harold López-Nussa on piano; Roberto Luis Gómez on electric and acoustic guitar
and banjo; Alain Ladrón de Guevara on
drums; Julio César González on electric bass; Yaroldi Abreu on Cuban percussion;
Luizhino Do Jeje on Brazilian percussion; Ruy Adrián López-Nussa on drums;
Yandi Martinez on acoustic bass; Carlos Alfonso, Ele Valdés and Carlos Angel
Valdés on choruses; Arístides Porto on clarinet; Aylin Pino on violin; Benda
Chávez Aguiar on violin; Maria Angélica Pérez on viola; and Claudia Carrillo on
Legendary West African ensemble Las Maravillas de Mali is set to perform on Thursday, May 2, 2019 at Barbican Hall in London. The acclaimed Malian Afro-Cuban orchestra’s present line-up will take to the Barbican stage for the first time in May 2019, accompanied by Guinean singer Mory Kanté.
Las Maravillas de Mali’s Barbican line-up will include West African and Cuban musicians: Boncana Maïga (composer, conductor), Mory Kanté (vocals), Pepe Rivero (piano), Florent José Alapini aka. Jospinto (vocals), Juancito Hurtado (vocals), David Reicer (flute), Eduardo Coma (violin), Armando García Fernandez (violin), Reicel Pedroso Diaz (violin), Nahomi Stephany (viola), Inor Sotolongo (timpani), Abraham Mansfarroll (congas), Sergio Fernández Pedroza (piano) and Felipe Cabrera Cárdenas (bass).
Formed in the early 1960s, Las Maravillas de Mali became an iconic ensemble of the Afro-Cuban musical tradition, singing in Spanish, Bambara and French.
In the middle of the Cold War, the early 1960s was a period of Communist camaraderie between the Africa of independence and the revolutionary Cuba of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. In 1964, the Cuban government invited ten young musicians from Mali to study in Havana. These young artists spent seven years studying music in Cuba, marking the establishment of Las Maravillas de Mali.
The group recorded one self-titled album in 1968 that included the song that became one of the greatest hits in this revolutionary era: “Rendez-Vous Chez Fatimata,” combining Cuban influences with traditional Malian music.
Las Maravillas de Mali’s story came to the attention of French producer Richard Minier in 1999 and he worked to recreate the ensemble. Together with the band’s remaining survivor and original member, Boncana Maïga, Minier retraced the group’s steps and went to Havana on several occasions, re-recording new versions of the album’s songs in the same surroundings as before, in the now famed Egrem studios.
In 2018, the orchestra was revived again in an effort led by Malian musician and founder Boncana Maïga, Cuban pianist Manolito, Beninese vocalist Jospinto and Guinean vocalist Mory Kanté.
Eme Alfonso, one of Cuba’s most captivating young artists, has a new music video titled “Oroko”.
Oroko is a song dedicated to Oshún, the goddess of the Yoruba pantheon. Eme moves forward the family tradition. Her parents were the founders of one of cuba’s greatest bands, Síntesis. Eme combines Afro-Cuban music with other genres.
The track includes an arrangement performed by Harold López-Nussa and vocals by Sintesis.
Your Connection to traditional and contemporary World Music including folk, roots and various types of global fusion