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Jorge Sylvester's distinctive alto saxophone sound is imbued with the volatility of Caribbean basin's complex mosaic, transformed and focused by the probing musical linguistics pioneered by the great saxophonists of modern jazz.
Born in Colon, Panama attended the Panama Conservatory of Music and the University of Panama. He received a Bachelor of Science in Music from the State University of New York College at New Paltz in 1981. A unique innovator in the idiom of creative music, Sylvester sound is reminiscent of another time in jazz history when artists like Dolphy and Ornette were exploding on the scene and experimenting with concepts that would ultimately revolutionize music at large. A throwback to the future, Mr. Sylvester has been on the cutting edge of that scene since 1980 when he first came to New York City. His blend of African-Caribbean Rhythms with new music is what gives Sylvester his distinguished voice. An impressive composer and arranger,his music moves, entices and stirs the imagination, as visual as it is physical, his ability to transform colors into sounds and sounds into textures place him in the company of the great expressionist painters.
By age 14, Jorge was fronting his own Caribbean dance band and writing his own arrangements and compositions. He studied privately with saxophonist,Euclides Hall, who took him along on gigs to observe from the bandstand in the old school style. When Jorge professor at the conservatory, Efrain Castro, sent him to sub for him in a band led by the great Panamanian pianist Victor Boa, Jorge was taken on as a regular.
Heading for Europe in his early twenties, Sylvester spent ten years touring and recording with his ensembles and as a freelancer. Upon his arrival to New York, he studied with Dave Holland, Oliver Lake, Steve Lacy, Ramsey Ameen, Marion Brown and many others at vibraphonist Karl Berger's Creative Music Studio in Woodstock. Since that time, Sylvester has performed with such notables as Stefon Harris, Rodney Kendrick, Karl Berger, David Murray Big Band, Sekou Sundiata, the Black Rock Coalition Orchestra, the Oliver Lake Big Band, Kuumba Frank Lacy's Vibe Tribe, the Next Legacy Orchestra, Joe Bowie's Defunkt Big Band and most recently with Nora McCarthy with whom he co-leads several groups, namely: The ConceptualMotion Orchestra, A Small Dream In Red (voice and saxophone duet) and The ACE(Afro-Caribbean Experimental) Collective all of which also include spoken word and poetry contributed by McCarthy. The ConceptualMotion Orchestra,conducted and orchestrated by Sylvester,is a 20-piece all original music orchestra with compositions contributed by both he and McCarthy,opened the renowned avant garde VISION FESTIVAL X in New York City,June, 2005. Also in 2005, a CD entitled A Small Dream In Red, was released on the Sundown label and is a live performance of the voice and saxophone duo recorded in March, 2003 at Cleveland State University Drinko Hall In the Spring of 2006, Jorge Sylvester toured Europe and Israel with the World Saxophone Quartet filling the chair formerly occupied by founding father Julius Hemphill, Arthur Blythe, James Spaulding, Eric Person, John Purcell and Bruce Williams. Mr. Sylvester performed alongside luminaries David Murray, Oliver Lake and Hammiet Bluiett.
In January, 2007, Mr. Sylvester returned to his native Panama as a member of the Panamanian All-Stars led and directed by Danilo Perez at the fourth annual Panama Jazz Festival performing with Carlos Garnett, Santi Debriano, Billy Cobham and Renato Thoms. Later on April 23, of the same year he performs at the Jazz and Workshops Festival in Podgorica, Montenegro with the Voice and Saxophone Duo, A Small Dream In Red.
In December 2010, Jorge Sylvester ACE Collective performed in concert for an enthusiastic capacity filled audience the illustrious, Brucknerhaus in Linz, Austria.
Mr. Sylvester performs frequently and conducts workshops throughout New York and elsewhere in the United States teaching his unique approach to composition using Afro-Caribbean rhythms.
NEW RELEASES - March 2013 • Spirit Driven, double CD on foUR (friends of UNSEEN RAIN RECORDS) with Jorge Sylvester ACE Collective:
Jorge Sylvester - Band Leader, Alto Saxophone and Compositions
Nora McCarthy – voice, poetry; Waldron Ricks—trpt; Pablo Vergara—pno; Donald Nicks—elec. bs; Kenny Grohowski—drums, percussion. This CD is a continuation of the ACE Trio CD In the Ear of the BeholderAn exploration from within of the Afro Caribbean Rhythms as a rhythmic and melodic vehicle to create new forms of extended compositions using the Voice, the Trumpet and the Piano as 3 independent textures to the ACE Trio.
Spirit Driven is a highly rhythmic and spiritually motivated compositional journey through the various cultures that make up the Caribbean Islands encompassing their significance and contribution to the present day advanced musical concepts in jazz and avant-garde/free music. The music is original, modern, imaginative and experimental. The use of language, “word,” in the form of poetry and lyrics is throughout and used to convey each song’s spiritual and historical message. The CD includes a composition dedicated to Haiti.
• In the language of dreams - a tribute to Ornette Coleman and Wassily Kandinsky with A Small Dream In Red, minimalist innovative voice and saxophone duo, Nora McCarthy—voice, Bodhran; Jorge Sylvester—alto saxophone. (http://www.asmalldreminred.com.)
A powerfully artistic CD comprised of original compositions, poetry and improvisation as well interpretations of five of Kandinsky's masterpieces graphically and spontaneously composed in the moment. There are also several covers of choice music which includes two Ornette Coleman compositions with lyrics written by McCarthy. The duo employs various techniques they discovered working in this format as well as other techniques employed by all art forms. Deconstruction, diminution, expansion, elaboration, symbolism, line and design among others. Intuitive and symbiotic, the two altos enter into each work with absolute freedom from preconception and create within and outside the form the textural content of each piece.
• May, 2011, Toward The Hill of Joy, with trombonist, composer George Brandon's Blue Unity Ensemble featuring Nora McCarthy.
New Double CD just released on Sylvester label Lizoka Music: Following The Line/ Live in New York City is the documentation of his 1999 quartet featuring Monte Croft on vibraphone, Jeff Carney on bass, Terreon Gully on drums, and a special appearance by pianist James Hurt on the Bud Powell composition Willow Grove.
2008 release Waldron Ricks with trumpeter, composer Waldron Ricks, Danny Grissett, Jaleel Shaw, Nashiet Waits and Vicente Archer, featuring Jorge's Quintet version of his composition Playground. Co- leader of the quartet Asymmetry with pianist, Lucian Ban, Sylvester recorded a CD for Jazzaway records which was released in December, 2005 entitled Playground which is also the name of the title track a composition written by Sylvester.
In The Ear of the Beholder, 2001 (Billboard's Spotlight, Feb. 2001) Jazz Magnet Records, features: Donald Nicks on electric bass and Bobby Sanabria on drums and is Sylvester's second release as a leader since the critically acclaimed MusiCollage (Postcards, 1996, re-released on Arkadia Records featured Claudio Roditi - trumpet, Marvin Sewell - guitar, Monte Croft - vibraphone, Gene Jackson - drums, Santi Debriano - acoustic bass and Bobby Sanabria - percussion. It received a **** rating from Downbeat Magazine and won a Billboard Critics Choice award.
In 1999 Jorge Sylvester appeared on BET Jazz Live From the Knitting Factory with his group, The ACE Trio.
• Magic Night (Jazz Stop Records, Madrid Spain, 1989) with the Chastang/Sylvester Sextet. • Viriato Blue (Jazz Stop Records, Madrid Spain, 1983.) • The Mass (Palmetto Records, 2000) with the Collective Identity Saxophone Quartet featuring Sam Newsome, Aaron Stewart and Alex Harding. • Another Side (CIMP Records, 2000) with tenor saxophone Ken Simon Quartet featuring drummer Barry Altschul. • The Blue Oneness of Dreams (Mouth Almighty Records, 1997) with Poet Sekou Sundiata. • The Essence All Stars featuring Doug Carn, Idris Muhammed and Josh Roseman (Hip Hop Records, 1997.)
Jorge Sylvester Ace Collective: Spirit Driven
By FLORENCE WETZEL, Published: November 28, 2013
In a 1967 interview with Jazz & Pop magazine, John Coltrane stated: I know that there are bad forces, forces put here that bring suffering to others and misery to the world, but I want to be the force which is truly for the good. In his lifetime and beyond, Coltrane has inspired artists to infuse their work with this mission, and certainly alto saxophonist and composer Jorge Sylvester can be counted as one of Coltrane's heirs. Spirit Driven is an 86-minute sonic feast by Sylvester and his ACE Collective that shows just how music and spirituality can intertwine. This is music that invokes forces for the good, played by people who feel these forces—and it also offers a cautionary tale about what happens to the world when these forces are absent.
The ACE (Afro-Caribbean Experimental) Collective is breaking new territory with its musical amalgamation of the Afro-Caribbean diaspora, the jazz tradition, and free music art-forms. Artists such as Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Dizzy Gillespie used Afro- Caribbean rhythms in their compositions, but their work didn't experiment with the pulses in these rhythms; part of what sets the ACE Collective apart is their expansion and reconfiguration of these pulses. In addition, the Collective includes poetry and storytelling in many of its pieces, and they also bring to light traditional songs from the Afro-Caribbean tradition. Clearly this music goes deep and wide, and the result is a multi-layered, multi-cultural aural banquet.
There's probably no nobler way to spend one's life than in the pursuit of making spirit manifest, to search for the good and then share it. Coltrane certainly felt this way, and it's clearly the right—perhaps the only—direction for the musicians who make up the groundbreaking ACE Collective. The music on Spirit Driven does in fact have an incredible spirit, something truly uplifting and life-affirming that's a potent layering of musical influences, cultural knowledge, and spiritual intention. The ACE Collective has brought utmost sincerity and musical skill to this recording, and the result is a multi- cultural explosion that is not to be missed.
October 4, 2013 Jazz Inside Magazine REVIEWS
Jorge Sylvester ACE Collective SPIRIT DRIVEN— Four 001. UnseenRainRecords.com www.jorgesylvesteracecollective.blogspot.com
Construction No.2; Masouc; Paulina’s Prayer; The Light of Truth’s High Noon Is Not for Tender Leaves; Obeahman; Construction No.1; To Be With You; Remember Haiti; Cycle of Life
PERSONNEL: Jorge Sylvester, alto saxophone, producer, arrangements; Nora McCarthy, vocals, producer, graphic design; Waldron Mahdi Ricks, trumpet;Pablo Vergara, acoustic piano; DonaldNicks, electric bass; Kenny Grohowski, drums. David Stoller, engineer; Ramsey Ameen, liner notes; Steve Vavagiakis, mastering
By Alex Henderson
Alto saxophonist Jorge Sylvester and singer Nora McCarthy have been collaborating musically for at least 12 years, and their collaboration continues to yield excellent results on Spirit Driven.
This two-CD set (which contains about 87 minutes worth of music) underscores the unpredictable, risk-taking nature of the Jorge Sylvester ACE Collective, which includes not only Sylvester and McCarthy, but also, trumpeter Waldron Mahdi Ricks, pianist Pablo Vergara, electric bassist Donald Nicks and drummer Kenny Grohowski. The music ranges from avant-garde jazz to post-bop, and Sylvester’s alto playing is soulful, heartfelt and convincing whether he is playing inside or outside. McCarthy’s contributions to Spirit Driven are extensive. In addition to producing Spirit Driven with Sylvester, she wrote all of the lyrics and poetry. She also composed “The Light of Truth’s High Noon Is Not for Tender Leaves,” and did the arrangement on “To Be With You.” Sylvester composed the bulk of the music on the CD—“Construction No.2” and “Paulina’s Prayer” “Masouc,” “Construction No.1,” “Remember Haiti” and “Cycle of Life” by himself. On Spirit Driven, McCarthy’s vocals can be divided into three main categories: (1) singing with lyrics, (2) wordless scat singing, and (3) spoken word poetry. And in all three, McCarthy has no problem getting her points across emotionally. It’s easy to understand why this double-disc is titled Spirit Driven: the ACE Collective’s performances have a very spiritual quality. That spiritual outlook is as evident on “Cycle of Life,” “Masouc” and “Obeahman” as it is on “The Light of Truth’s High Noon Is Not For Tender Leaves.” The latter has a spirituality that recalls the late Abbey Lincoln, and McCarthy really soars with that Lincoln-ish mood. “Remember Haiti,” one of the more avant garde offerings on Spirit Driven, is a gem. Sylvester and McCarthy wrote that piece in remembrance of the victims of the earthquake that devastated Port-au- Prince, Haiti in January 2010, and McCarthy expresses herself with a combination of spoken word poetry and wordless scatting.
One of the appealing things about Sylvester’s albums is his ability to incorporate a variety of world music and make it all fit together. Sylvester, who is originally from Panama but now lives in New York City (also the home of Cleveland native McCarthy) has had no problem showing audiences the relationship between African, Caribbean and Latin music. And he does exactly that on the exuberant “Obeahman,” which is full of world music vitality.
Another one of Sylvester’s strong points is his determination to be consistently musical no matter how outside a particular song might become.“Masouc,” “Remember Haiti” and“Construction No.2” are among the more outside offerings on Spirit Driven, yet all of those selections are quite musical. Some free jazz favors atonality for the sake of atonality: instead of venturing outside, the musicians stay outside. But that isn’t the approach that Sylvester is going for on this album. Sylvester, even on the most abstract parts of this album, thrives on musicality, melody and composition. He also thrives on rhythm, savoring the rhythmic traditions of the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa while maintaining his improvisatory jazz focus.
Jorge Sylvester ACE Collective Brucknerhaus Linz, December 6, 2010 ****** Those who were expecting Calypso-singing Harry Belafonte clones must have been disappointed. The pieces composed by the Panamanian saxophonist use the rhythmic tradition as a basis for extended forays into the world of the contemporary. The young drummer Kenneth Grohowski juggled the odd meters with exquisite ease. Sylvester's compositions are solid ground for exciting, improvisational excursions particularly by the singer and poet Nora McCarthy and the trumpeter Waldron Mahdi Ricks.
Ace Collective enthusiastically received in Linz Christoph Haunschmid, OONachrichten Kultur Medien (http://jorgesylvesteracecollective.blogspot.com/p/reviews.html)
“...Jorge Sylvester's distinctive alto saxophone sound is imbued with the volatility of Caribbean basin's complex mosaic, transformed and focused by the probing musical linguistics pioneered by the great saxophonists of modern jazz. Jorge's composer's imagination is the matchless structural coherence of his improvisational work.” Ramsey Ameen, 12/2005
“...If Ornette Coleman had be born and reared in Nassau, his music would have sounded like this.” C. Michael Bailey - All about Jazz
“ Sylvester's alto work is deeply rooted in bebop but fluent in the most modern of horn vocabularies. With this album, (In The Ear Of The Beholder) he makes his mark as one of the more advanced, imaginative voices in Afro-Caribbean jazz.” David R. Adler – All Music Guide
“...Panamanian-born, New York-honed alto saxophonist Jorge Sylvester has produced a set of challenging island-accented jazz with his aptly named, Afro-Caribbean Experimental Trio.
‘In The Ear Of The Beholder’, bespeaks variety in the form, with each track opening up a different vista. Billboard Spotlight, February 24, 2001.
“...There are no clichéd romantic notions of breezy island music on this bold adventure led by Panamanian alto saxophonist Jorge Sylvester. With his edgy rhythmic pulse and diamond-hard tone, Sylvester has crafted an album that boasts the same sort of Herculean, calypso-driven improvisations of Sonny Rollins and the lofty intentions of Julius Hemphill and Oliver Lake's 1970s Arista Freedom dates.” John Murph, Jazz Times Magazine Review of
In The Ear of The Beholder“. ..As for Sylvester, he’s one the most capable soloists holding an alto today–Por la Clave, for instance, is full of outright Ornette-ish inflections with ample support once again from the rhythm section. There are several gutbucket textures here that evoke the wailing harmonic breadth of some of jazz’s best improvisers, from Eric Dolphy to Sonny Simmons. It’s a restrained but flawless stream of emotive improvising and it heralds one of the greater under looked talents of the day. Jorge we never knew ye!” Joe S. Harrington – New York Press.
“...Sylvester chose McCarthy’s voice because of its similarity in sound and spirit to the horn and for her versatility within the context of the instrumentation of the Collective as well as for her unique improvisational and interpretative abilities.”
Ramsey Ameen, A Gathering of the Tribes Magazine