16

Ches Smith / We All Break: Path of Seven Colors

Karl Ackermann By

Sign in to view read count
Ches Smith / We All Break: Path of Seven Colors
For some time, drummer/composer Ches Smith kept his interest in the Voudou music of Haiti at bay. Recognizing himself as an outsider in that world, he researched, listened, studied, and after years brought a project to fruition. Smith's group We All Break released their self-titled, self-produced debut in 2017 and received less attention than deserved. Now on Kris Davis' Pyroclastic Records, the outstanding Path of Seven Colors should produce wide recognition.

Path of Seven Colors is a two-disc set, the first being a re-release of the debut, now retitled as 2015, the year in which it was originally recorded. Smith teamed with percussionist Markus Schwartz whose background included groups playing a Voudou/jazz hybrid. Another of Smith's mentors, Daniel Brevil, is the third percussionist on 2015, and all three supply occasional vocals. Smith's choice of Matt Mitchell's piano is a brilliant stroke of intuition even though Mitchell also lacked specific experience in voudou music. On the second disc, 2020, the quartet is joined by a fourth percussionist/vocalist, Fanfan Jean-Guy Rene, saxophonist Miguel Zenon, bassist Nick Dunston, and vocalist Sirene Dantor Rene.

2015 is a churning triumph of polyrhythms, polytonality, and improvisation. It would be counter-productive to analyze each of the seven Smith compositions given the percussive nature of each; even Mitchell's spikey piano is as much a propulsive force as the drums. Smith's pieces are rooted in the traditions of the African diasporic religion and further developed as Voudou in Haiti beginning in the 1500s. Schwartz and Brevil each play tanbou and rada, barrel drums used across music genres of Haiti, and Smith adds the native kata drum. Each of the percussionists contributes vocals in Haitian Creole, with lyrics written or procured by Brevil. In the tonal exchanges of various drum tunings, piano, and voices we hear enthralling textures and revelations.

Miguel Zenón's saxophone brings a different feel to the 2020 disc, less stark, more rounded by the alto. More along the lines of Afro Cuban traditions and modern improvisation, these pieces generate an alternative kind of exhilaration. "Woule Pou Mwen" finds inspiration in the ritualistic music of the Congo, as does "Leaves Arrive." The latter piece shares its influence with the rhythms of the Haitian petwo tanbou drummers. The politically inclined "Women of Iron" has its inspiration in the Haitian war for independence, a successful insurgency by self-liberated slaves against French colonial rule.

Smith's career has been dominated by sideman and co-leader projects. His work with Craig Taborn, Tim Berne's Snakeoil, Marc Ribot, and the Mary Halvorson Trio, has been widely praised. It is fortunate for creative music that his scarcer leader outings are such great achievements. The "break" in We All Break refers to the Haitian Creole word—kase—for a sudden alteration in the music introduced by the principal drummer. And just as Vodou drumming rituals call upon abstract ancestral spirits, Smith crafts his arrangements with an appropriate level of uncertainty. He breaks new ground with We All Break, and with no template for this hybrid model, he has created something new and extraordinary. Highly recommended.

Track Listing


2015: An Opening; Reds; Country Line; Dagger; Ibo; Notions of Purity; Six A.M.
2021: Woule Pou Mwen; Here's The Light; Leaves Arrive; Women of Iron; Lord of Healing; Raw Urbane; Path of Seven Colors; The Vulgar Cycle.

Personnel

Ches Smith: drums; Matt Mitchell: piano; Miguel Zenon: saxophone, alto; Daniel Brevil: percussion; Markus Schwartz: percussion; Nick Dunston: bass; Sirene Dantor Rene: voice / vocals; Fanfan Jean-Guy Rene: percussion.

Album information

Title: Path of Seven Colors | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Pyroclastic Records

Post a comment about this album

Watch

Tags

Shop Amazon

More

Westward Bound!
Harold Land
Jazz Mix 12
Kris T Reeder
Horizons Quartet
Horizons Quartet
3,5,8
Gui Duvignau
On Fire
Bévort 3
Lockdown
Joshua Jern Jazz Orchestra

Popular

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded albums and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, limited reopenings and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary step that will help musicians and venues now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the sticky footer ad). Thank you!

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.