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Jacques Schwarz-Bart: Jazz Racine Haiti

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Jacques Schwarz-Bart’s conflation of jazz with the voodoo music of Haiti is executed so seamlessly here that the background info he provides is somewhat superfluous, but here goes: Schwarz-Bart’s mother was from Guadeloupe, her son absorbed the keening, spiritual chants associated with voodoo while growing up, and he’s since found similar melodic properties between the genre and jazz that he believes are worth investigating. Schwarz-Bart, a 51-year-old French-born saxophonist and composer, has made numerous visits to Haiti, seeking ways to define that sweet spot, and Jazz Racine Haïti is his first full-length exploration of the relationship between the two. (Racine music, he writes, is “roots music from the countryside of Haiti.”)

Good to know, but the results speak for themselves. Schwarz-Bart builds most of the 10 tunes, all of which he wrote and produced, around those common-ground rhythms and melodies. Dominant are two voodoo priests, vocalist Erol Josué and percussionist Gaston “Bonga” Jean-Baptiste, and two other vocalists, Rozna Zila and Stephanie McKay. The core music is provided by several jazz notables, including bassist Ben Williams, trumpeter Etienne Charles, pianists Milan Milanovic and Gregory Privat, drummer Obed Calvaire and bassist Reggie Washington.

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