How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
This album from soprano saxophonist/flutist Jane Bunnett and her trumpeter husband, Larry Cramer, is a rich musical gumbo not only exploring the ancient Afro-Haitian-influenced changüi music of southeastern Cuba, but also stirring it up with jazz and the music of New Orleans. Most tracks feature one of two Cuban traditional bands, Grupo Changüi de Guantánamo or Grupo Changüi de Santiago. They each include hand drums, shakers, rattles and the guitar-like tres.
On traditional changüi songs, the jazz musicians add another layer of music to the Afro-Cuban polyrhythms and call-and-response vocals of the groups, either in obbligato-like commentary or through soaring solos that rise up from and ride over the traditional songs. On "Kiriba, Jumpin' Johnny Sansone's blues harp provides a prelude and Bunnett's flute solos over the song, while "Yemaya begins with Dewey Redman's tenor sax incrementally joined by the Guantánamo musicians, with Bunnett also commenting on flute and soprano sax. Sansone, playing accordion, sings two of his Cajun-zydeco style blues, with changüi rhythms and vocals added by the Santiago musicians. Bunnett's sax takes the lead, and solos along with Redman, on her own "Changüi Para Alfredo, with the Guantánamo musicians.
Other tracks not featuring the Cubans take inspiration from the changüi rhythms. Bunnett's "You Have Changed My Life is a strong, folkish melody given a polytonal reading with muted trumpet lead and fine solos all around, including one from Howard Johnson's tuba, an addition on several tracks. Cramer's "Conga Blue adds a couple more trumpets, plus electric guitar, organ and piano for a raucous mariachi-like ride. And "New Orleans Under Water is one of those rare jazz pieces that sustains a haunting mood all the way through its slow rumba opening to a sultry flute, blues harp and guitar closing, with atmospheric flute and guitar solos along the way.
Track Listing: Changui Para Alfredo; Give Me One Dollar; Kiriba; Guantanamo Blues, Pt. 1; Lomo de Chivo, Pt. 2;
You Have Changed My Life; No Money No Chica; Conga Blue; New Orleans Under Water (Nueva Orleans Bajo Agua);
Yemaya; Vamos Para Guaso Compay (Let's Go to Guantanamo Man).
Personnel: Kevin Breit: guitar; Jane Bunnett: flute, soprano sax; Larry Cramer: trumpet; Grupo Changui
Grupo Changui de Santiago; Howard Johnson: tuba; Kieran Overs: bass; Dewey Redman: tenor
Jumpin' Johnny Sansone: guitar, harmonica, accordion, vocals; David Virelles: piano.