Reginald Cyntje

Elements of Life

Born on the island of Dominica and raised on St. Thomas, USVI, trombonist Reginald Cyntje has been mixing cultural heritage with black American music from the beginning. Growing up in the US Virgin Islands (USVI), Cyntje was immersed in the rich cultural music known as Quelbe (the official music of the USVI), which is based primarily on African, European and North American cultures and musical structures. One of the key characteristics of Quelbe is that there is improvising in the music and this was one of the key elements that Cyntje delighted in.

Cyntje is a graduate of the University of the District of Columbia and is currently working on his master's degree at the University of Maryland. As a trombonist, educator and activist, Cyntje has performed with: Dr. Billy Taylor, Illinois Jacquet, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Dion Parson and the 21st Century Band, Ron Blake and many others. After sharing the stage with his mentors for many years, Cyntje finally released his highly anticipated debut album Freedom's Children: The Celebration in August of 2011. In 2013, Cyntje released his sophomore album simply titled Love.

On April 22, 2014 (Earth Day), Cyntje released his third album Elements of Life featuring pianist Allyn Johnson, bassist Herman Burney, drummer Amin Gumbs, vocalist Christie Dashiell, steel panist Victor Provost and saxophonist Brian Settles. The album an enjoyable stylistic mixture of jazz, calypso, reggae, and other African influenced genres.

The title track, "Elements of Life starts with Cyntje and vocalist Christie Dashiell stating a bluesy melody in unison fashion, over a calypso/jazz feel with steel panist Victor Provost providing annotation between the phrases. Pianist Allyn Johnson creates a solid appregiated figure that builds upon a rhythmic motif of development throughout his solo. Bassist, Herman Burney and drummer Amin Gumbs hold the sound in a tightly locked fashing keeping the group in a forward motion. Saxophonist Brian Settles starts his solo with well-placed tension notes, emphasizing the flat 9 and a natural sixth against the minor harmony. The ensemble methodically builds under Settles angular lines and quick flurries which eventually give way to Cyntje's trombone entrance. Starting with long held notes, Cyntje's warm toned trombone ultimately settles in on a bluesy figure that he smartly develops through the changes. Cyntje has a clean and articulate sound that is most pleasing for the listener. The addition of steel pan is what additionally makes this group unique. Provost takes us even deeper into the Island feel with an admirable pan solo, full of creative ideas and clear melodies. Gumbs has the last solo statement and takes it with an energetic, yet cohesive drum solo that leads us back to the melody and a decisive ending.
"Fire" begins with a drum intro that kicks the cut off with vigor and leads to an enjoyable melody set to a jazz waltz feel that is orchestrated with horns, steel pan and voice intertwining in and out of flowing counterpoint and harmonic support in various places. Provost and Johnson contribute unrivaled solos and help the music have a “feel good” emotion. Cyntje begins his solo with low tones from his trombone before settling in and building the momentum. There is a substantial chemistry between the players which encourages good. Settles leads us through the changes with a yield of the melody and a nice vamp with some group blowing for the ending, there is a strong use of the phrygian modal colors, which keeps the cut interesting and intensity elevated.

Cyntje’s compositions are clear and utilize the strengths of this writing through his adept ensemble. The music offers the listener a chance to hear many styles and variances of intensity and tempos. Cyntje's messaging comes through clearly through the music, which further adds to the overall experience. A highly recommended listen.

Track Listing: Elements of Life; Earth; Sky; Fire; Water; Wind; March of the Trees; The Aftermath; Earth Revisited.
Personnel: Reginald Cyntje: trombone; Allyn Johnson: piano; Amin Gumbs: drums; Brian Settles: soprano, tenor sax; Christie Dashiell: vocals; Herman Burney: bass; Victor Provost: steel pan.
Record Label: Self Produced

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H. Allen Williams