Pianist Bobby Avey is bringing a fresh approach to the jazz scene. In 2005, while a student at the Purchase Conservatory of Music, NEA Jazz Master David Liebman invited Avey to join his group to reinterpret and arrange compositions from the Classical and Romantic eras to provide vehicles for improvisation. The project concluded with the album Vienna Dialogues, which was released in 2006 on ZOHO. In 2011 Avey won the esteemed Thelonious Monk Competition for composition following on from his critically acclaimed debut album A New Face. Avey followed up with a solo piano CD entitled, Be Not So Long To Speak, which was described as “a record of mystery, patience, imagination and clear design” by the New York Times. Avey continues his work with David Liebman in his ‘Expansions’ group and Avey’s current release is an hour-long suite of music for quintet that was inspired by events surrounding the Haitian Revolution and based on the rhythms found in Haitian Voodoo drumming entitled, Authority Melts From Me.
Avey recorded two separate Haitian drumming groups and then transcribed the rhythms for inspiration for the five compositions that comprise the suite. Avey travelled to Haiti to visit and record a Voodoo ceremony in the small village of Soukri, near the town of Gonaïves. Avey also used an album by the drummers of the Societe Absolument Guinin from Port au Prince, as his two sources for analyzing the relationships between the different drumming layers and their relationship to each other to use them as a starting point for Authority Melts From Me.
Avey assembled an ensemble of Miguel Zenon on saxophone, Ben Monder on guitar, Thomson Kneeland on double bass, and Jordan Perlson on drums. The main melodic content of the suite is comprised of three central tracks, “Kalfou,” meaning ‘crossroads,’ and makes full use of the Haitian drumming rhythms that were used to open the portal between two worlds and facilitate communication with the spirits. “Louverture,” named after the foremost leader of the Haitian Revolution Toussaint Louverture, is where Avey’s piano conveys the intricate drumming rhythms with a minimalist motif that provides the structure for the piece to develop. “Cost” is the last selection of the suite and contains a haunting saxophone melody that is emotionally conveyed by Zenon, which reflects the human cost of the revolution, estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands. Track two, “Piano Interlude” and four, “Drum Interlude,” are short interludes that connect the longer tracks (the other tracks are all over 12 minutes) and serve to balance the suite and overall feel of the hour long set.
Authority Melts From Me is described by Avey as; “The history of jazz has always been one of cultural variety and an amalgamation of diverse traditions. I hope to be furthering that in a sensitive way by incorporating traditions of a country I respect. I hope to add something to the legacy of jazz that stays true to the aspirations of that music while incorporating a style that up until now has not been explored in this way. What I also hope is that this endeavor is creating further linkages in the relationships of the various branches of the African diasporic tradition.” Avey does a fine job of getting the complex rhythmic layering of the Haitian drumming circles into the parts of the quintet. The playing is emotional on the written parts and the group listens and builds the music during the improvisations. Monder and Zenon are especially impassioned on this date and Avery is outstandingly creative in both his playing and writing.
Tracks: Kalfou; Piano Interlude; Louverture; Drum Interlude; Cost.
Personnel: Bobby Avey (piano), Miguel Zenon (alto saxophone), Ben Monder (guitar), Thomson Kneeland double bass), Jordan Perlson (drums).
H. Allen Williams
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