Mozayik: Haitian Creole Jazz

New York quintet Mozayik quickly and promisingly defines Haitian Creole jazz with its first cut, a rendition of Duke Ellington’s “Caravan.” The guitar, bass and piano deliver a bop feel to this standard, then boom-congas, tin trumpets called kone, and various percussion instruments kick in, adding the carnival flavor of rara to the mix. But alas, on each successive cut the traditional Haitian instruments either get pushed further and further down in the mix, or are tacked on at the end of songs as an afterthought. So while the liner notes suggest that “Sa Te Bel (It Was Beautiful)” combines a jazz waltz with the traditional Nago drum rhythm, listeners will mostly just hear standard American-style improvisation and time changes from the guitar, bass and piano. Still, it isn’t bad when pianist Welmyr Jean-Pierre plays lead-his subtle high-note tinkling is captivating-but when the bassist and guitarist occasionally add fusion and smooth-jazz licks, or when guest balladeer Beethova Obas chimes in, the group comes across as merely another hotel lounge outfit.