Native Columbian Pianist Hector Martignon closes his liner notes to Refugee thusly:
"Although I play the acoustic and electric pianos in all tunes...I prefer the role I almost instinctively adopted, paraphrasing Auguste Rodin: provide boulders of marble of distinctive shapes and sizes to a group of sculptors and then collectively carve out the most beautiful shapes imprisoned inside those rocks.
Not having read these words before listening to the disc, the thought struck me that Martignon, like Ellington with "Concertos for Cootie, was composing for a whole passel of guest musicians. It turns out he was. Martignon concentrates primarily on the rhythm section in his selection of sculptors for Refugee. The bass, drums, guitar and percussion chairs are occupied and shared among the leaders of their respective instruments.
The title cut kicks off the disc with Richard Bona (Michael and Randy Brecker, Larry Coryell) on bass and Willard Dyson (Jimmy Scott, The New York Voices, Dakota Staton and Cassandra Wilson) on drums. Martignon envisions a dense Latin groove pinned down with Bona's elastic bass playing. Bona is virtuosic in his soloing and perfect in his time keeping. Guitarist Edgardo Miranda burns the house by pouring gasoline on it. Dyson's cross rhythms increase the Latin density to critical mass, inaugurating the disc in a most proper way.
Martignon goes on to create similar sculptures with similar sculptors. Of note is "99 MacDougal, employing bassist John Benitez and drummer Horacio "El Negro Hernandez in a Latin counterpoint, punctuated with Edgardo Miranda's guitar and Samuel Torres' percussion. This piece shows the endless loam of creativity still to be derived from Latin jazz when Latin rhythms collide with thick and complex hard bop heads. Martignon's teacher, Kenny Barron, joins his student on electric piano on "Beauty Sleep. The rhythm duo chosen for this piece is Eddie Gomez on bass and Jeff "Tain Watts on drums, additionally joined by guitarist Mark Whitfield.
Martignon understates his role in the opening quote because his talent at the keyboard and composing staff are beyond compare. He has a perfect grasp on the punchy, humid piquant of Latin rhythm. Conversely, Zoho impresario Joachim Becker has a supernatural ability to attract the finest Latin jazz musicians to his label. Following a string of very successful recordings on his Zoho Roots imprint, Becker returns to his bailiwick of "Latin Jazz with a New York vibe in style with Hector Martignon's Refugee. Thank the stars that Becker allow such talent to take the music where it needs to go.
Track Listing: Refugee; 99 MacDougal; Observatory; Beauty Sleep; Eddie
Personnel: Hector Martignon: piano, vocals (3); Kenny Barron: electric piano (4); Edgardo Miranda: guitar (1, 2, 6, 8); Mark Whitfield: guitar (3, 4, 5, 7); Justin Quinn: guitar (1, 8); Richard Bona: bass (1, 8); John Benitez: bass (2, 6); Matt Garrison: bass (3, 7); Eddie Gomez: bass (4, 5); Willard Dyson: drums (1, 8); Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez: drums (2, 6); Dafnis Prieto: drums (3, 7); Jeff "Tain" Watts: drums (4, 5); Samuel Torres: percussion (1, 2, 6, 8); Sammy Figueroa: percussion (4, 5); Roberto Quintero: percussion (3).
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.