For pianist, composer, educator and arranger Michele Rosewoman, music serves two purposes: to swing as always while engaging listeners in a multicultural experience that stimulates an impassioned connection.
The fruition of Rosewoman’s concept became a reality some 35 years ago when she formed the Afro-Cuban jazz ensemble New Yor-Uba. Her conceptual elements trace an arc from Africa to Havana to New York City and beyond. Early on in California, the pianist immersed herself in music, art and politics; and an emphasis in studying jazz. It was primarily her percussion interests that led her into the deep waters of Cuban music, history, culture and folkloric traditions. The spiritually based Cuban folkloric tradition and contemporary jazz worlds are necessary components in her music.
Her New Yor-Uba ensemble featured Orlando “Puntilla” Rios until his death in 2008. It finally released its first album in 2013, in celebration of its 30th
On Nov. 1, along with an evolution in personnel of master musicians and folklorists, New Yor-Uba released their new album “Hallowed” (Advance Dance Disques). “Oru de Oro” (room of gold), is an extended work commissioned by Chamber Music America, which is a consumption of the CD’s 10-track suite.
“This recording represents a 35-year evolution of both the concept of the ensemble and the deepening of my own relationship to this profound tradition of endless depth, to which I am so completely bound,” said Rosewoman. “Spirituality calls for active transformation of mind, body, spirit—individually and collectively. This recording opens, as do the traditional ceremonies, with an invocation to the guerreros (warriors). Given the urgency of these times and the battles that need to be fought and won in this very moment for the sake of all humanity, we summon our warriors from within as we thank and acknowledge those on the frontlines. We need them now.”
“Forest of Secrets” flourishes with Afro Cuban rhythms, distinctive Batá drumming and horns that rain jazz interactions. The pollinating rhythms of the constant drumming, brass section and Rosewoman’s distinct piano makes “Hallowed” the year’s finest spirited representation of Cuban folklorist music and jazz infused with energetic notes of the African diaspora. “Hallowed” anoints Rosewoman as a griot of Cuban folklore, who carries on the tradition of pianist and composer Randy Weston, who encompassed his music into the spiritual enlightenment of the African diaspora.
Ironically, “Hallowed” has been released at a most significant time in American history, August 2019 marked 400 years since the first documented arrival of Africans, who were brutally brought to ancient America by way of Point Comfort, Va. to be sold as involuntary laborers. In 1619, Virginia was still the property of Native Americans and Europeans were the non-native species, and the English were the illegal aliens. Cuba’s prominent African-influenced culture is one of the nation’s defining characteristics. African culture brought by slaves and developed within the context of the Spanish colony has had a profound impact on religion, music and Cuban society. The appearance of Africans in ancient America before Columbus, who traded with the Native Americans, should also be discussed at another time.
Three tracks that draw my attention to the African diaspora and Cuban folklorists are “There is Here, Then is Now” (Yemaya, Odudua) a frolic in the wide-open sea with piano/soprano and piano/trombone duos that preface a unified prayer. “The Wind is the First To Know” (for Oya) is a suite, starting with Roman Diaz’s poetic vocal insights into the deity Oya—baritone saxophone then joins for a warm 5-horn rendition of a melodic prayer and Nina Rodriguez’s heart-touching vocals. Yes, in Africa before or as danger approached it was the silence of the wind that alerted our ancestors to be prepared. “Flowers That Bloom In the Dark” (Oya, Yewa, Ochun, Oba) is a tribute to the feminine deities.
“I’m very rhythmically motivated, both as a composer and pianist,” says Rosewoman. ”The Batá tradition explores the cracks of time—they reveal endless nuances that one never knew existed. I think it’s in my nature to explore time in this very way—that’s one reason why I am so drawn to and intrigued by it. This latest work is built on the foundation of the form, contours and mastery of folklorist and percussionist Román Díaz [a treasured member of New Yor-Uba since 2008]—and the way he plays the traditional Oru Seco. It is a strict tradition, but there are many points where those with the knowledge can take liberties.”
On Nov. 8, New Yor-Uba will perform compositions from the new recording “Hallowed” at Zinc Bar (82 West 3rd Street), sets are 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., for more information call 212-477-9462.
For the month of November Harlem’s own jazz promoter Berta Indeed will present live music every Monday and Friday at Patrick’s Place Restaurant & Lounge, 2835 Frederick Douglass Blvd (Eighth Avenue & 151st Street). Music 7 p.m.-10 p.m. Nov. 8 saxophonist Patience Higgins Trio, Nov. 15 keyboardist Marcus Persiani’s Trio, Nov. 11 Benny Rubin’s Sax & Trio, Nov. 18 Saxophonist Ray Blue’s Trio, Nov. 22 Pat Tandy’s Trio and Nov. 25 Lady Leah’s Trio. No cover charge.
Every Wednesday (8 pm-12 am) Berta Indeed takes Harlem’s jazz band downtown to Midtown Manhattan’s Ainsworth Social (645 9th Avenue on 45th Street). No cover charge. For more information call 212-265-1000 or visit website www.ainsworthsocial.com
The drummer Jerome Jennings, who set Sista’s Place on fire last week, will surely bring more flames to Dizzy’s on Nov. 12, when he celebrates his CD release “Solidarity.” His featured abled young artists will include trumpeter Josh Evans, saxophonist Stacy Dillard, guitarist Jorge Castro, bass Devin Starks, pianist Zaccai Curtis, trombonist Andrae Murchison and vocalist Melanie Charles.
Solidarity a true jazz inspiration with cuts like “Be-Bop” and “Convo with Senator Flowers” well worth hearing along with the other nine impressive tunes. Two shows at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Saying the music will be off the hook is an understatement.
For reservations visit the website jazz.org.
Two renowned pianists Chucho Valdes and Chick Corea come together onstage for their debut duo performance on Nov. 15-16, at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall (60th Street and Broadway) one show each night at 8 p.m. Free pre-concert discussion about the music and artists at 7 p.m.
The celebrated pianists continue to redefine different corners of their extended versions of jazz. The first half of the concert will be a master class in solo piano performance, with Valdés selecting and improvising pieces across a broad spectrum of Cuban, Afro-Latin and jazz styles. Valdés brings unbridled passion and astonishing technique to every performance.
For the second half of the concert, Valdés was asked, “If you could play with any artist with whom you’ve never played before, who would you pick?” His answer, “Chick Corea,” sets the stage for an unforgettable concert.
For more information visit the website jazz.org.