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Interviews

Mark Weinstein: Cuban Roots

By Published: December 22, 2005

AAJ: Aside from the bootleg (Artol) version, Cuban Roots was unavailable to the public for twenty-five years. Any idea why? Is it currently available?

MW: The person who controls the master refused to release it or even license it to me. Although he did license one track for a Masters of Latin Jazz compilation [on Rhino records]. That really blows me away. Here are all these Latin jazz classics by legends who recorded hundreds of hit albums and sold hundreds of thousands and in the middle is Mark Weinstein and a record that sold a few hundred copies at most. Go figure. A benefactor arranged for a limited CD run of a remastered version of Cuban Roots on the best available vinyl. The CD is available through my web page, www.jazzfluteweinstein.com.

AAJ: In addition to Cuban Roots, my copy includes the Orisha Suite. Tell me about the Orisha Suite.

MW: When I heard about the possibility of a CD version of Cuban Roots I asked that it include a never-released recording I made in 1977 when I had just begun to play flute. This is a very different approach to the material. It is a suite of two toques sung by Olympia Alfara, backed by batá and chorus and multi-tracked keyboards played by Eddy Martinez. There is an instrumental introduction with flute, classical guitar, three cellos and me playing a bass line on the marimba. A long interlude which is a free composition for flute and classical guitar with 4 French horns and an instrumental coda with me playing 3 layers of marimba locked in with the batá drums and 3 tracks of flute, two playing very fast and free and a lyrical flute solo on top of all that. Ah, to be young again!

AAJ: Any idea why Cuban Roots came to be known as the "Green Album."

MW: The color of the cover!

AAJ: Let's fast forward to Cuban Roots Revisited, which was recorded 32 years after Cuban Roots. As the story goes, Michael McFadin, the co-founder of Cubop Records, attempted and failed to acquire the rights to Cuban Roots. As an alternative, he commissioned the making of Cuban Roots Revisited. What was your initial reaction when he approached you with the idea of recording Cuban Roots Revisited?

MW: I said a small prayer of thanks. By that time I had recorded two albums on flute including Jazz World Trios, which is still one of my favorite albums and I saw this as a way back into the music. My nephew Dan Weinstein is responsible for doing the leg work getting us all hooked up.

AAJ: As the title implies, you "revisited" your original concept. How did you approach the project and what was your vision for going in?

MW: The revisit was basically the material. We did the same songs, except for the Beatles tune and adding "Ellegua. Dan [Weinstein] orchestrated my trombone solo on "Just Another Guajira for the three bones. Otherwise the concept was very different. Because Dan was involved, I wanted to use trombones. I had written for trombones extensively in the '60s and '70s. I used the trombones as a choir utilizing the bass trombone to get a broad orchestral sound against which the flute could stand out. LA has a great folkloric tradition and Lazara Gallaraga is one of the most important teachers, along with Francisco Aguabella, that induced the best drummers in town to participate in the project.

We rehearsed the horns and then went into the studio. But what really made the date was Omar Sosa. Omar responded immediately to the arrangements, and the two bassists, Carlitos La Puerta and Eddie Resto followed his lead. I had never heard Omar before, and during a break early on the first day when everyone else was eating, Omar and I jammed. That convinced me that I was dealing with a giant and convinced him that my head was as open as his. I consider his playing on the album to be as innovative as Chick's was on the original. The difference being that Omar is a master of Cuban music, having studied all aspects of rumba and being deeply immersed in Santeria. His playing is deeply connected with the drums but never duplicates or gets in the way of the drum conversation.

AAJ: It must have been incredibly gratifying to record your material in a state-of-the-art environment.

MW: It's a good thing we had great equipment and great engineers. By the time we finished two days of recording and a half day of fixing parts, we mixed the whole thing in one of the most intense afternoons of my life. Fortunately the board was completely automated—this was before Pro-Tools—and so we could mix very efficiently, saving moves on the board in a primitive computer so that we could move quickly from mix to mix and tune to tune. We had everything going for us except for time and budget. I had to be back in New Jersey to teach and the budget only paid for 3 days in the studio.

AAJ: How does Cuban Roots compare to Cuban Roots Revisited?

MW: Thirty years later, Cuban Roots Revisited reflects a more mature attitude towards composition and a much more secure relationship to the source material. Everyone there had an understanding of the folkloric elements and an openness to innovation. I was no longer a power player and Cuban Roots Revisited is much more thoughtful. The tempos are slower and the textures rich and evocative. Omar's solos are spectacular and I especially love him and Dan on violin on "Ochún.



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