Haitian Creole Jazz

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It's always so inspiring when American-based musicians mine the riches of their exotic heritage, and this five-piece New York band offers a stirring invitation to explore the vast rhythmic riches of its Afro-Haitian roots. While listeners are enjoying what on the surface sounds like an appealing mix of classical, jazz, gospel, and funk influences, the 12 multifaceted tracks also aim to teach lessons about various traditional Haitian folkloric drum rhythms (all stunningly played by Markus Schwartz). The set is bookended with two tracks using the Rara rhythm, the joyous and frenetic "Caravan" (a showcase for the feisty interplay between guitarist Eddy Bourjolly and pianist Welmyr Jean-Pierre) and "Moving On," which floats an elegant melody atop speedy percussion patterns. Other irresistible native rhythms include Nago (the hypnotic "Sa te Bel"), Mayi ("Pen Mayi"), Ibo (the sassy Latin-flavored "Mirelle"), Kontradans (the moody, laid-back "African Queen," featuring singalong native vocal textures), Kongo ("Limye"), and Petwo (a very tropical "The Journey"). Schwartz's interesting liner notes add some context to the tunes, whose deep textures take a few run-throughs to fully appreciate. Those who are fascinated might be prompted to do more research into what makes jazz tick in Haiti. But for those just out for a nice listen, perhaps legendary jazz bassist Jimmy Haslip's take is quite enough: "beautiful music!"

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