To Havana

Thursday, June 2, 2011

My ex may not know this, but he actually spoiled me on jazz. He could talk forever about any aspect of it, as in depth as one could go. And it's really one of the things, if not the central thing, that I admired about him.

Though he didn't introduce me to the genre, it was definitely during my time with him where I developed a love jones for Steve Reich, Christian Scott, Stefon Harris and Blackout, and a slew of others. My crush on Blackout's bass player Ben Williams is not so much a well-kept secret anymore lol.

You can pair jazz with any genre and she'll transcend it. Hip Hop? Done and done. Pop? What up Bobby Caldwell. Latin? Let's stop there, actually.

As you may have heard, the Grammy's--in all its infinite musical wisdom--decided to do away with its Latin Jazz category starting in 2012, and instead will fold it into other sub categories such as Best Jazz Instrumental or Best Jazz Vocal. Never mind the historical imprint of the genre on music itself since before the 1950s.

But thankfully we can still escape to Havana, Cuba. An area almost so synonymous with Latin Jazz that some of the genre's greatest legends are her native sons and daughters: Paquito Rivera, Celia Cruz, Chano Pozo, ....

So, imagine my excitement when I found out that Stefon Harris, Christian Scott, and David Sanchez had created an album, a love song really, to Latin music called Ninety Miles and had traveled to Cuba just to make good music. They played with many of the revered and local musicians, and only further confirmed why cross culture musicianship is nothing short of inspiring.

This album is a considerable landmark not because it's making an overt statement against the Grammy's decision. This album may very well have been in the works months or years before that decision was ever announced. But the fact it's coming out after the decision is poignant because it's showing how significant musicians find this region to be for it's culture and its tradition in jazz itself.  It represents a people and their energies and their loves and struggles and their waxing and waning. Bossa Nova was the little engine that could during the 40s and 50s before it skyrocketed to fame in the 60s thanks to films like "Black Orpheus" and the steady push of forward-thinking young musicians and listeners. The merengue seems to have always been the darling of dancers since it was created, and apparently dictators, too (re: a certain infamous Dominican Republic dictator of the 30s-60s).

So why am I going on about it? I'm not a musician (except when I'm playing Guitar Hero. Do people still play with that??). I'm not from Latin America (though I would love to take a trip there soon!). But at the end of the day I am a music fan. And again, I'm spoiled. My ex was a fighter for jazz. Everything from reverence for its musicians and honest critique of their flaws, to the etiquette that the audience brought when listening to their shows. So this is my way of passing on the love to you.

A full length documentary about the Ninety Miles will be available this summer, and the group will be performing in New York the day the record is released, June 21st. You know what would be a funny irony to this? If Ninety Miles received a Grammy for their work ;-) Thanks to The Revivalist for the initial post.

And be sure to enter your e-mail for a free download of the singe "Nengueleru".


1 comment:

  1. yay! Glad you liked my mix. Fleet Foxes are great.

    I've never gotten into jazz. Might need to give it another try though!


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