|Me Queda la Sensación||Mi Chica||4:14|
|No Quiero Verte Llorar / Beatriz Alfonso / Roberto Poveda||Mi Chica||0:01|
|Si No Es por Ti||Mi Chica||3:28|
|No Me lo Digas||Mi Chica||4:09|
|Flores Rojas / Roberto Poveda||Mi Chica||3:48|
|Quiero Estar Cerca de Ti||Mi Chica||2:58|
|La Luna de Tu Sonrisa||Mi Chica||3:37|
|No Me Vas a Olvidar||Mi Chica||4:04|
|Las Cosas Diferentes||Mi Chica||3:43|
When it came time for this talented, eclectic tenor man -- a native of Guadeloupe whose parents, both award-winning authors, are a black Guadeloupean mother and a Holocaust-surviving French Jewish father -- to record his solo projects, he had a wide variety of stylistic directions to choose from. He's been in many bands with jazz superstar Roy Hargrove, including Crisol, and his extensive touring with neo-soul god D'Angelo led him to work with David Gilmore and Me'Shell NdegéOcello. But rather than draw on these professional influences, Jacques Schwarz-Bart digs straight to his roots, blending the traditional gwoka rhythms of Guadeloupe with the jazz, gospel, and soul he absorbed during a lifetime spent everywhere from the Caribbean to Western Europe and the U.S. His tenor playing is inventive and colorful, his improvisations stellar throughout, and he blends beautifully with the dense African percussion, rolling rhythms, and light female and huskier male native choirs. The musician's intention, however, is to tell a rhythmic and melodic story of the history of many styles, fusing into a contemporary narrative in a wide array of moods and modes. The result is an exhilarating, hard to classify Afro-jazz delight that defies all genre specifics but fits cozily into both jazz and world music bins. His story begins with the infectious clapping rhythms of "Papale," built on the insistent war rhythm known as mende, with Schwarz-Bart's sizzling sax played with an otherworldly wah-wah pedal. It's an odd but enticing beginning because it's like no other sax sound you've ever heard. On the title track, he plays brightly textured horn lines over more clapping, subtle tribal vocals, and densely rhythmic acoustic guitar lines. The wistful "Love" shows off the more gentle side of Schwarz-Bart's artistry, as he combines woule rhythms with a wordless Brazilian vocal by Stephanie McKay and a graceful jazz piano solo by Milan Milanovic.
This sort of jazz-meets-African vibe, colored with unexpected exotic elements, runs all the way through the mix -- with a warm, tropical stop on the "Descent" -- to the unusually toned closer "Lewoz," an odd-metered track based on the rhythm of the dead that blends woodwind and trumpet in a dance simulating the interaction between heaven and earth.
As Schwarz-Bart follows his own multicultural muse, fans of progressive jazz and various world grooves will enjoy the journey the most.
Ottawa, Canada's Souljazz Orchestra have been around since 2002, releasing three albums of Afro-beat-inspired jazz before Rising Sun, their fourth. But despite a name that's unfortunately similar to jazz-fusion and jam band favorite Soulive, the Canadian sextet manages to make music that stays relatively true and honest to its inspirations without sounding either derivative or exploitative. This is especially true of the songs that stay closer to the jazz realm, which makes sense: Souljazz's members were trained in, and started in, jazz, and they seem most comfortable here. This means even when the African and Latin influences are added in, as in "Mamaya" (the name of a Guinean dance from the '40s) or the lovely "Consecration" -- which starts with a riff off the first section of Miles Davis' version of "Concierto de Aranjuez" (albeit with saxophone instead of trumpet) before moving into something more upbeat, a swinging modal jazz piece with plenty of room for exploratory solos -- there's an understanding in the listener that the music comes from a sincere and well-kept place. It's not that the songs that move away from this direction -- the Afro-beaty "Agbara" and Mulata Astatke-inspired "Negus Negast" are the two prominent examples -- sound insincere, there's just something a little bit off, the drums in "Negus Negast" mixed just a little too loud, the background vocals in "Agbara" a little too pretty (something, that needs to be noted, contemporaries like Antibalas and Budos Band have been able to avoid), something that hints just slightly of the "world music made palatable" phenomenon. Fortunately, these moments are few and distant enough that after all is said and done, Rising Sun still feels like a victory.
Like his debut, Smithville is another set of thoroughly winning straight-ahead bop from the underappreciated trumpeter Louis Smith.
Stylistically, there are no surprises here -- this is mainstream bop and hard bop, comprised of original and contemporary bop numbers, as well as standards ("There'll Never Be Another You," "Embraceable You") -- but since the music is performed so well, it doesn't matter. There is genuine passion to this music, not only from Smith, but also from pianist Sonny Clark, tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Art Taylor. It's a first-rate hard bop set that deserves wider distribution than it has received.