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Pauline Jean: Nwayo

James Nadal By

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One cannot properly realize the music of vocalist Pauline Jean without delving into the history of Haiti, as they are intrinsically intertwined. She has the innate ability to seamlessly flow within her ancestral culture while very much being the modern artist living the creative life. Her sophomore release Nwayo—Haitian Kreyol for core or center—is an amalgam of pure jazz vocalization steeped in Caribbean rhythm and soul.

By beginning with "Rev Pauline/Pauline's Dream" Jean cleverly lays out the concept which the record will adhere to. She sings this, as some of the others, in Kreyol, and the accompanying music, penned by alto saxophonist Godwin Louis, is tinged with classical references to Ludovic Lamothe, an esteemed Haitian composer. The standard "I'm In The Mood For Love," is revitalized by pianist Axel Tosca Laugart, who drives the song with a strong jazz essence, then transforms it into a Cuban montuno for the finale.

The cadence is tempered on "Anmwey" a creole sketch on the French chanson style, where Jean displays her ability to cover the vocal range from a hushed plea to sheer desperation. Her jazz inclinations return amidst "Whirlwind Romance," an upbeat number featuring superb sax soloing by Louis. Traditional Haitian drumming highlights "Ti Kwazo Kote Ou Prale" a Haitian children song, trumpeter Jean Caze stepping to the forefront in the instrumentation. Jean Mary Brignol and Markus Schwartz add the accurate rhythmic accompaniment necessary.

The records highlight is "Igbo Landing," a poignant suite in honor of the mass suicide off the coast of Georgia in 1803, by enslaved Igbo Africans who chose drowning over a life of slavery. Jean does a remarkable job of portraying the agitation and anguish that such a scenario would invoke. Louis likewise takes his sax phrasing into the raging sea, as if in a scream; leading Obed Calvaire into a drum induced frenzy. The homage to the ancestors is extended on "Their Blood, Bondye" a collaboration with Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat, in praise of those who sacrificed everything in Haiti's long and troubled history. Remaining with her native sensitivity, "Kouto De Bo," is a rhythmic venture performed with a clever twist on words and meaning.

Pauline Jean is one of those rare musicians who possesses an ancient spirit. Her Haitian roots extend her heritage back to Africa, to the griots of tribal societies. She could of course be happy and successful as a jazz singer, but mystical influences engaged her with a deeper realm, chosen by ancestors to tell their story, in their language. It is a serious undertaking which she manifests with music... "the Sea brought me and the Sea will bring me home."

Track Listing: Rév Pauline; I’m In The Mood For Love; Anmwey; Whirlwind Romance; Ti Kwazo Kote Ou Prale ?; Igbo Landing; Their Blood, Bondye; Kouto De Bo; (Reprise) Ti Kwazo Kote Ou Prale.

Personnel: Pauline Jean: vocals, bandleader, composer; Alex Tosca Laugart: piano; Jonathan Michel: acoustic & electric bass; Obed Calvaire: drums; Godwin Louis: alto saxophone; Jean Caze: trumpet, flugelhorn, shell horn; Jean Mary Brignol: Haitian traditional drum; Markus Schwartz: Haitian traditional drum, percussion.

Title: Nwayo | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Self Produced


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