For me “The Reckless Search for Beauty” is about coming full circle in my career as a trombonist, composer, and arranger.
My musical growth has been nurtured by many great artists like Pete Escovedo, John Santos and Machete, Julian Priester, Conjunto Céspedes, Tito Puente, Bobby Hutcherson, Narada Michael Walden, and many more. The gift that these musicians share is their relentless search for new means of musical expression. Walking the artistic tightrope every time one plays, looking for those fleeting moments of pure inspiration.
My parents introduced me to jazz via Charlie Parker, Nat “King” Cole, and Oscar Pettiford records. This was my entre to Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and the world of jazz. I would listen to the local Bay Area jazz station (the dearly departed KJAZ) for hours on end. I learned about the tradition of the music and discovered the names and styles of older jazz musicians as well as new ones. I later sat in at the San Francisco jazz clubs of the famous Fillmore district. The Both/And, Jack’s of Sutter, and many more jazz clubs. I learned many valuable lessons hanging out with the older jazz musicians at the San Francisco musicians union that still serve me well.
My roots are also in the music of the1960-70’s.
The first full-time R&B band I worked in was a James Brown cover group. I grew up in the same neighborhood with many of the members of Sly Stone and the Family and Santana. Greg Adams of Tower of Power and I were in a Boys Club jazz group together. I would spend every available free night going to the Fillmore West and other rock clubs to listen to Cold Blood, Buddy Miles, Chicago and other horn groups.
My other great love is studying the Afro-centric music of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Brazil and Perú. In the 1980’s I joined Pete Escovedo’s band, the Machete Ensemble and later on Conjunto Céspedes. From 1993 to 1998, I had the pleasure of studying Afro-cuban music at the National School of the Arts in Havana, Cuba. This experience opened me up to a universe of new musical possibilities that I’m still excited about.
The songs and arrangements on this album reflect my take on the “search” I have been on. I love finding the intersections where different styles of music meet and blend. The touches of rhythm and blues in the guitar work, the jazz harmonies in the horns and the keyboards, the polyrhythms of the drums, the voices “bringing down the spirit”, all working together in a variety of musical settings. Early jazz groups mainly played for dances. The relationship between musician and dancer is an act of synergy where each one constantly feeds the other. All the songs on this project are derived from dance styles (mambo, cha-cha-chá, samba, “Old School R+B-Funk”, danzón, bolero).
When you listen, I hope you enjoy this music as much as I do.
-Wayne Wallace 2006
“El Duende Africano” (Latin-Funk) (Wayne Wallace)
“Soul music”. “Where heart and mind become one” “Swing”. “An endless well of invention”. “Bringing the spirit down.”
All these phrases apply to what we search for and love about the arts and creativity. Duende is the essence that makes the sound greater then the notes of a scale or as Duke Ellington would say “The sound of love”. An essay by the writer Garcia Lorca speaks eloquently on this subject. “Angel and muse approach. With idea, with sound, or with gesture, the Duende chooses the brim of the well for his open struggle with the creator. Angel and Muse escape in the violin or in musical measure, but the Duende draws blood, and in the healing of the wound that never quite closes, all that is unprecedented and invented in a man’s work has it’s origin,” gospel, flamenco, jazz, the blues, and many other Afro-centric forms draw much of their identities from Duende. “El Duende Africano” celebrates the Duende of Africa, España, Cuba, the soul of the Americas, and Tower of Power.
“Paso a Paso” (It All Adds Up) (Latin-Jazz) (Wayne Wallace)
Danceable, musically engaging, always rhythmically compelling, latin big bands were at the heart of pop music in the United States and Latin- America for a good part of the 20th century. The Mario Bauza Dizzy Gillespie Chano Pozo connection, Machito Afro-Cubans, the Tito Rodriguez and Tito Puente orchestras never failed to thrill and elicit the synergetic energy that ties dancer and musician together as one. “Paso a Paso” pays homage to the tradition with some Cuban “picante” thrown in for fun.
“Use Me” (Funk-Latin) (Bill Withers)
The oral tradition of story telling is a part of all cultures that never fails to inspire. Bill Withers’ songs have always painted vivid images that stir emotions and stay with the listener for years. “Use Me” was a natural song to do for mixing styles. With the funk of the original Bill Withers version, the different perspectives on relationships, and having many elements of Afro-Cuban music in it already (especially the keyboard line being in clave). This arrangement is a mix of “Old School” funk and the Afro-Cuban dance style “Timba”.
“Tune Up” (Latin-Jazz) (Miles Davis)
The Miles Davis song “Tuneup” is one of the favorite songs for all jazz players to play and solo on. Mile’s gift for choosing just the right melody and chords to make a song come to life are showcased superbly in the crafting of “Tuneup”. Saxophonist John Coltrane was inspired to develop variations of the chord changes of “Tune Up “ to create two of his most famous compositions, “Countdown” and “Giant Steps”. These songs have very unique chord structures that inspired the phrase “Trane chord changes”. In this arrangement, I have reharmonized the original chord structure and given the song a latin touch “ala Puente”.
“Rhythm & Rhyme” (Brazilian/Funk) (Wayne Wallace)
In the 1950-60’s the “Bossa Nova”, samba, and the film “Black Orpheus” brought Brazilian music to the forefront of the North American popular music consciousness. “The Girl from Ipanema” was a major influence for jazz and rock and roll musicians alike. Antonio Carlos Jobim, Stan Getz, and Bola Sete, were but a few of the artists at the forefront of this music. “Rhythm & Rhyme” is a gumbo of samba, funk, and jazz in a 6/4 time signature. Though the basic feel of the song is a 2 beat feel, the melodic phrases dance through the song in 4, 6, and 8 beat phrases.
“Chromatic Love Affair” (Bolero) (Duke Ellington)
Duke Ellington is one of my musical heroes. To me he was the epitome of the artist looking for new avenues of self expression. Ellington never limited himself to playing one style or being boxed in by “normal” conventions”. As a composer and arranger, he constantly blurred the lines between musical styles. The song uses a chromatic scale for the melody but with a wonderful chord structure that lifts it up to the next level. Sophisticated, urbane and romantic, this song lends itself well to being interpreted as a bolero.
“Nadie” (Songo/Blues Caribe) (Wayne Wallace)
In the 1980’s the nightclub “Bajones” was a major force in the launching of many musical careers. It was more then just a place to play, it was a musical workshop for all of us who were in the various groups who played there. Bobby McFerrin, Babatunde Lea, Karl Perrazo just to mention a few. Seven nights a week jazz, samba, salsa, R&B, and blues music was the normal fare for a wildly varied fan base that happily mixed together.“Nadie” is a modified blues, based around the “songo” rhythm popularized by the Cuban group Los Van Van and others. I would like to dedicate this song to that spirit of expression which exemplifies the sound that I grew up with at Bajones.
“Afro Blue” (Music by Mongo Santamaria/ English Lyrics by Oscar Brown Jr./Spanish lyrics by Ricardo Pereira)
The rhythms and melodies of the Afro-Cuban religion Santería have long been an inspiration to musicians. Composed by Mongo Santamaria, one of the major figures in latin jazz, “Afro Blue” is the classic song which speaks to that quality we all aspire to as artists. The arrangement begins with a traditional melody for the major Yoruban deity father/mother of the Orishas and all humankind Obatalá. Here again the original chord structure is re-harmonized, the batá drums of Santería music are featured, and the lyrics are in English and Spanish.
“La Encantadora” (Cha-cha-chá) (Wayne Wallace)
From the island of Cuba, to the sounds of Motown, “everybody loves to cha-cha-chá”. This infectious Afro-cuban dance rhythm has an natural affinity to North American R&B music and jazz. Artists such as Tito Puente, Steely Dan, Santana, and The Dramatics are but a few of the popular music groups to have had success with this enduring style. “La Encantadora” is an amalgam of the two styles, that features flute and horn section ensemble work
“Esta Noche” (Latin-Funk) (Wayne Wallace)
During the 1970’s and 1980’s, Cuban and North American musicians had limited access to each others music. What had been an easy cultural interchange for many years was now near impossible. Afro-Cuban music is funky by nature. The poly rhythms of the music are a natural to blend with other rhythmic styles. Imagine what popular music would sound like now if James Brown, Earth, Wind and Fire, and other North American groups could have visited Cuba on a regular basis and shared ideas with Los Van Van and other groups. Many of the conversations I have had with Cuban musicians revolve around this topic. For me, “Esta Noche”developed organically around this concept. One idea naturally led to the next and so on.
Done in a big band format, this arrangement s an endeavour to explore and develop that affinity further
“El Rio De Oro” (Wayne Wallace)
This is a song I wrote for Ochún, the Afro-cuban orisha of the river. It has a dreamy feel, reminiscent of some jazz from the 1970’s but is rooted in the Afro-cuban folkloric tradition. A three bar phrase in the rhythm section and a two bar phrase in the percussion section are used to symbolize the eternal movement of water, while the voice and trombones represent the playfulness of aquatic life.
To my mother, daughter, and all my family for your constant support. To all the musicians on this project for their immense talents and encouragement since the beginning. To Michael Aczon for everything over the last two decades. To Gary Mankin for the big ears and the “Reckless Search for Tone”. To Bay Records, the Escovedo family, Karen B., Linda S., Chuy. V., KCSM, KPOO, KPFA, Peter W. Michael Z. Ray L., Jody N., the folks at the Stanford Jazz Workshop, Jazz Camp West, and Susan M. and everyone at the Jazz School.
To all the Cubaphiles and Jazzheads in the Bay Area, without you guys, we are nothing. And finally abrazos to my extended musical brothers and sisters throughout the country.
*For glossary of terms go to www.walacomusic.net
Los Van Van
Produced by Wayne Wallace
Engineered by Gary Mankin
Mixing by Gary Mankin and Wayne Wallace
Photography-David Belove and Michael Aczon
Production Assistance-Sheryl-Lynn Wallace and Akida Thomas
Recorded June-July 2006 at Bay Records Berkeley CA and Knob and Tube Studios San Francisco CA
Mastering by Ken Lee
Wayne Wallace: trombone-ALL TRACKS,
Alexa Weber-Morales: vocals-TRACKS 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 11
John Santos: perc.-ALL TRACKS
Michael Spiro: perc.-ALL TRACKS
Paul Van Wageningen: trap drums-ALL TRACKS
David Belove: ALL TRACKS
Murray Low: piano-TRACKS 1-6, 8, 9, 10
Frank Martin: piano and synthesizer-TRACKS 3-5, 7, 8, 11
David Yamasaki: All tracks
Louis Fasman: trumpet and flugelhorn-TRACKS 1-10
John Worley: trumpet and flugelhorn-TRACKS 1-10
Melecio Magdaluyo: alto sax, bari sax, and flute-TRACKS 1-10
Ron Stallings: tenor sax-TRACKS 1-10
Ron Hollins: vocals-TRACKS 3, 5, 8
Dave Martell: trombone-TRACKS 2, 10
Kat Parra: vocals-TRACKS 1, 3, 5, 8
Orlando Torriente: vocals-TRACKS 1, 3, 5, 8
Sheryl-Lynn Wallace: vocals-TRACKS 1, 3