Since founding the Interconnections Ensemble in 2016, saxophonist/bandleader Felipe Salles has used the group not just as a showcase for his powerful big band compositions but as a vehicle for illuminating diverse perspectives on the immigrant experience. The ensemble’s 2018 debut, The Lullaby Project, reflected his personal journey through the lullabies of his native Brazil, while its 2020 follow-up, The New Immigrant Experience, channeled anger and frustration over the tempestuous political climate into a tribute to “Dreamers” – the hundreds of thousands of people protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
With Home Is Here, his third album with the Interconnections Ensemble, Salles draws inspiration from his fellow immigrants in the jazz community. Out May 12, 2023 via Tapestry Records, the album features eight majestic new compositions, each written for and directly inspired by an individual soloist.
Salles chose a diverse and compelling cast of special guests for the recording, spanning an array of nationalities, cultures, traditions, generations, and most importantly, stories: legendary saxophonist/ clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera (Cuba); vocalist Sofia Rei (Argentina); saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart (Guadeloupe); flugelhornist Nadje Noordhuis (Australia); vocalist Magos Herrera (Mexico); saxophonist/percussionist Yosvany Terry (Cuba); guitarist Chico Pinheiro (Brazil); and saxophonist Melissa Aldana (Chile).
In order to tailor his new pieces for the featured artists, Salles began by selecting a cross-section of the jazz scene whose work he admires and connects with, and whose stories intrigued him for their parallels and differences from his own. He then arranged Zoom interview sessions (availability wasn’t much of an issue during the height of the pandemic) and spoke to each of his subjects at length. Finally he drew from those conversations to craft a composition that embodied each individual’s personal journey.
“There’s a bit of an anthropological curiosity underneath this whole project,” Salles says. “The conversations were fascinating and helped me find ways to write music that felt connected with people's personalities and stories.”
Opener “Re-Invention,” for instance, is a play on words drawn from a comment Rivera made about musicians constantly having to reinvent themselves. Salles ran with that idea while contemplating the breadth of the woodwind master’s storied career; he referenced Rivera’s classical technique by bookending the piece with segments hinting at a Bach invention, and steering through sections inspired by tango, Brazilian chorinho and Afro-Cuban traditions.
Rei penned the lyrics to “Meridian 63,” which Salles wrote with the singer’s experiences in jazz, classical, pop and folk musics in mind. The complex piece utilizes Argentinean influences and a hybrid groove leading into a stunning vocalese in dialogue with the deft band members. Schwarz-Bart used the word “Polymorphous” to describe his approach to fusing his roots and influences, sparking a polyrhythmic piece that diverges into multiple directions.