LANDMARK DOUBLE CD NEW YOR-UBA: 30 YEARS – A MUSICAL CELEBRATION OF CUBA IN AMERICA
An ALL-STAR CAST featuring
PEDRITO MARTINEZ lead vocals/bata/congas
FREDDIE HENDRIX trumpet/flugel horn
OLIVER LAKE, soprano+alto saxophones/flute
MIKE LEE tenor saxophone/flute
VINCENT GARDNER trombone
HOWARD JOHNSON tuba/baritone saxophone
MICHELE ROSEWOMAN piano/vocals
ROMAN DIAZ bata/congas/vocals
ABRAHAM RODRIGUEZ bata/congas/vocals
DANIEL CARBONELL bata
YUNIOR TERRY acoustic bass
ADAM CRUZ, drums
NINA RODRIGUEZ vocals
"Dazzling tracks...startling for its balance of unfettered improvisation and undiluted Cuban folklore within a complex
and often grand structure."- Larry Blumenfeld, The Wall Street Journal
"New Yor-uba is soulful evidence that Rosewoman is on to something significant...energetic, propulsive...fully integrated orchestrated brasses, saxophones, and a jazz back line, with traditional Yoruban chants sung to the heavy rhythmic accompaniment of congas and bata drums, ceremoniously arriving at sumptuous Ellington-like orchestrations..." - DownBeat
"Ms. Rosewoman's music – dissonant melodies, brass chorales, chromatic ballads and orchestrated vamps for brasses, saxophones, and a jazz rhythm section, as the groove shifted from the flow of the Santeria chants to the swing of a jazz band – was jazz that didn't simply use Afro-Cuban rhythms as decoration, but layered melodies and rhythms with equal force and weight." - The New York Times
On her landmark new album New Yor-Uba: 30 Years - A Musical Celebration of Cuba in America, pianist/composer/vocalist Michele Rosewoman pushes the envelope at the outer limits of jazz improvisation while keeping firmly rooted in both jazz and centuries-old Afro-Cuban folkloric tradition. Widely credited as being one of the first composers to synthesize sacred Cuban folkloric music with a thoroughly contemporary jazz concept, Rosewoman's magnum opus, double-cd set – the debut album released on her own Advance Dance Disques label - is the realization of a distinctive creative vision thirty years in the making. Through a successful Kickstarter campaign and the generous support of her backers and co-producers Neyda Martinez and Onel Mulet of Habana Harlem, Rosewoman's dream has reached fruition.
A disciple of legendary Cuban percussionist Orlando "Puntilla" Rios, her career as a cross-pollinating innovator seamlessly bridges both the jazz and latin genres. As a composer, she's achieved recognition from Chamber Music America and support from the National Endowment for the Arts. As a performer, over the course of more than four decades, she's collaborated and recorded with greats from both fields: Jimmy Heath and Tootie Heath, Celia Cruz, Steve Coleman, Julius Hemphill, Paquito D’Rivera, John Stubblefield, Rufus Reid, Billy Bang, Chocolate, Greg Osby, Miguel Zenon, Freddie Waits, Billy Hart, Reggie Workman, Oliver Lake, James Spaulding, Gary Bartz, Howard Johnson and Carlos Ward, among others. Rosewoman and her New Yor-Uba ensemble celebrate the release of the album at Jazz at Lincoln Center, with performances at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola on September 30-October 1 and at the Lake George Jazz Festival on Saturday, September 14, 2013.
A pianist since the tender age of six, Rosewoman first became directly involved in African folkways in her teens via Cuban music when she began playing congas and percussion. While pursuing a career in jazz, these early explorations profoundly impacted Rosewoman's musical direction as she continued to explore and practice the ancient African-based drum/ vocal traditions that she would eventually come to synthesize in her music.
"One constantly expands tradition and the other strives to maintain an ancient tradition," Rosewoman explains. "They seemed to be opposite in some ways, and yet they always felt profoundly related. I saw parallels between the subtle and sophisticated rhythmic and harmonic aspects of jazz and the highly evolved rhythmic and vocal language of both rumba and bata traditions—the obscuring of the obvious, the ability to play time on a sophisticated level where the ‘one’ is not stated but implied by everything around it. As a composer and as a pianist, my approach is profoundly shaped by the rhythmic perspective of the bata drums and is evident in the way that I write and play. This enables me to integrate the forms without forcing any element to fit, and to retain the essence of each idiom."
Along with Rosewoman on piano, Rhodes and vocals, the album features a mighty three-piece bata (Yoruban talking drum) and conga section of Pedrito Martinez (who also contributes lead vocals), Abraham Rodriguez and Roman Diaz. The group also includes the all-star cast of Freddie Hendrix on trumpet and flugelhorn, Oliver Lake on soprano and alto saxophones and flute, Mike Lee on tenor saxophone and flute, Vincent Gardner on trombone, Howard Johnson on baritone saxophone and tuba, Yunior Terry on acoustic bass and Adam Cruz on drums, with additional contributions from percussionist Daniel Carbonell and singer Nina Rodriguez. Together they celebrate the Afro-Cuban orishas (the traditional Yoruban deities) throughout an eclectic, joyously kinetic mix of compositions united with and grounded in ancient African rhythms originating in Nigeria and Dahomey.
The first disc opens with Divine Passage, dedicated to the deity Eleggua: an energetically elegant, cinematic horn arrangement leads into duet improvisations and winds up to an animated outro afloat on a bed of hypnotic percussion. They follow with the celebratory track Dance for Agayu, where the rhythmic nature of the sequence of traditional (arara) melodies are so joyful it makes it hard to sit still. Natural Light (Obatala), piano and vocals setting the stage for a funk groove that reminds that funk is also an ancient African rhythm, in this case a springboard for animatedly expansive lead vocals by Pedrito Martinez and trumpet and piano solos. Por Ahora y Para Siempre, a shapeshifting composition with echoes of Monk and features a Lake solo that coalesces into warm lyricism and a suspense fully booming, extended bata interlude.
After the deep funk of Vamp for Ochun, a vocal feature for Martinez, there's the spaciously misterioso epic Old Calabar, setting Diaz' theatrical vocals against Rosewoman's coloristic Rhodes piano. The first disc concludes with Rezo a Ochun (Prayer for Ochun), Rosewoman's improvisation nimbly negotiating a thicket of trance-inducing vocal countermelodies as sung by Rosewoman and Rodriguez.
The second disc begins with In Praise of Spiritual Guides (for Eggun), firmly anchoring bright and balmy solos by Rosewoman, Hendrix and Lee in a warm, traditional folkloric groove. Pedro Flores' slinky rumba, Perdon, gets a new Rosewoman arrangement inspired by the Cuban ensemble Yoruba Andabo, setting up a dynamic vocal duet between Martinez and Rodriguez. The lyrical beauty of Obalube (Chango) is pushed to new heights with solos by Rosewoman and Lake.
The album's most epic track, Where Water Meets Sky (Yemaya) further explores the African origins of funk with a fabric of intricate horn parts woven into and emphasizing the groove building to a mighty crescendo propelled by the bata drums and Rosewoman's Rhodes. Agua Dulce Del Bosque (Ochun), a vivid tropical pastorale, works its way to a sultry slow groove spiced by solos by Lake on alto and Johnson on tuba. Warrior(Ochosi) is a purposeful, forceful horn-driven funk groove that winds up with a colorful vocal feature. The album ends up on with a rousing, soaring choir of voices on Earth Secrets (Babaluaye) a sequence of Afro-Cuban songs from the Orlando "Puntilla" Rios repertoire. Rosewoman's vision and arrangement here sheds light on the African roots of gospel, with a dynamic tuba feature by Johnson. Almost thirty years after the initial incarnation of this ensemble was conducted live by the late, great Lawrence D. "Butch" Morris, this album is the long-awaited summation of a unique creative vision began in Rosewoman's early years, uniting the best of two worlds: ancient African forms of song and rhythm that made their way to the US via Cuba, and Rosewoman's highly individualistic, evocatively expressive compositions and pianistic approach.