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Afro Horn at Zinc Bar

Tomas Pena By

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Francisco Mora-Catlett and Afro Horn
Zinc Bar
Greenwich Village, NY
January 8, 2014

There was a moment during Afro-Horn's performance at the Zinc Bar where the lines between reality and fiction became a blur. It occurred when Sam Newsome, an imposing figure of a man and a consummate reed player, appeared to be possessed by the spirit of Probe, the protagonist and wielder of the Afro Horn, a rare object of power in Henry Dumas's short-story, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." In the midst of an intense and passionate solo, Newsome's ..." lips swelled over the reed and each note fell into the circle like an acrobat on a tight rope stretched radially across the center of the universe."

For the uninitiated, Afro Horn is a multicultural, multigenerational ensemble created by the Mexican-American drummer, composer and visionary Francisco Mora-Catlett, who was introduced to the writings of Henry Dumas and the legend of the Afro Horn during his tenure with Sun Ra. Mora-Catlett was so moved with Dumas's message and the concept of an instrument with the power to unite people and "clear out" unfounded notions and misconceptions, that he formed an ensemble around the idea.

The ensemble opened with an invocation praising the ancestors, then wasted no time in plunging into a wildly progressive interpretation of the gospel hymn, "When the Saints Go Marching In," followed by "Afra Jum," a play on the words, "Afro Jam," an open invitation for everyone to participate in the festivities. "Barasuayo Mamakeña" is a praise song dedicated to the West African deity, Elegua. The set concluded with "5XMax," a tribute to the legendary drummer, Max Roach. The music was in the moment, fluid and true to its intrinsic nature, free.

As the evening came to a close there was an eerie silence, a collective feeling of, "What just happened?" and smiles all around. Afro Horn is: Rashaan Carter, bass; Aruan Ortiz, piano; Sam Newsome, reeds; Roman Diaz, percussion/vocals; and Francisco Mora-Catlett, drums, leader. Absent was saxophonist Alex Harding.

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