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Henry Cole and the Afro Beat Collective: Roots Before Branches

Mark F. Turner By

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As a rising jazz drummer in today's environment, Henry Cole's percussive sound has emerged in works with seminal artists such as Miguel Zenon, David Sanchez, and the Le Boeuf Brothers. Like his peers, Cole is challenging old ideas and channeling new concepts into the mix. The debut of Roots Before Branches , with his Afro-Beat Collective, is full of fresh ideas that resist being easily compartmentalized.

Inspired by the music of his homeland in Puerto Rico with thick doses of Afrobeat, underground club music, electronica, jazz, and other stimuli, Cole's underlying roots are exposed as new offshoots emerge and thrive incorporating everything from sounds of the street parties, dancehalls, poetry, funk and rock aesthetics, to form something that is uniquely Cole-centric.

The program's changeability is dizzying yet infectious. One minute there's the sweating funkiness of "No Eres Tu, Soy Yo" that does Fela Kuti proud, or some fierce words from poet/rapper Hermes Ayala in the punkish "Trabájala"; the next, there are strains of Carlos Santana blues-rock on "Una par Isabél" provided by guitarist Adam Rogers, or an interplanetary party in "Cominezo," where the rhythmic dance of the plena, bomba, and Cole's drum kit syncopate with ethnic vocals and electronic keyboards. Another snapshot of Cole's imagination is found in "Uncovered Fears," based upon Mara Pastor's poem and featuring an eloquent recitation from Pastor, silhouetted against a backdrop of strings donned with a European classical music vibe and Cole's cultural imprint.

As these different sounds swirl together, jazz fits in comfortably like a glove, with fine contributions from Zenón, and Sánchez, and many others including some sweet Fender Rhodes action from Soren Moller and bold brass from trumpeter Josh Evans on "Música para un sueño." The program ends with "Solo" as Cole free forms on his kit with accompaniment by electric bassist Ricky Rodriguez. It resembles but sounds nothing like the archetypal jazz solo and is a timely finish to a brilliant release.

Track Listing: Aurea V.; Trabajala; To Believe Without Seeing; Año 2010, No Eres Tu, Soy Yo; Comienzo; Una Para Isabel; Solo Dos Veces; Uncovered Fear; Musica Para Un Sueño; Solo.

Personnel: Henry Cole: drums, keyboards (2-10); John Ellis: tenor sax ; Billy Carrion Jr.: baritone sax ; Juan Jose “Cheito” Quinones: trumpet (1-9); David “Piro Rodriguez: trumpet (3); Josh Evans: trumpet (10); Soren Moller: Fender Rhodes (1-5, 7-10); Sean Wayland: Fender Rhodes (6); Egui Santiago: keyboards (1-5, 7-10); Roy Guzman: guitar (1-5, 9); Adam Rogers: guitar (7); Ricky Rodriguez: bass (2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11); Willy Rodriguez: bass (1, 9); Pedro Perez: bass (4, 5); Alberto “Beto” Torrens: bomba barril (1-5, 7-9); Obanilu Allende: plena panderos (6), voice (6), bomba barril (10); Bryant Huffman: shekere (1-5, 7-9); Reynaldo de Jesus: shekere (10); Hermes Ayala: voice (2-4); David Sánchez: tenor sax ( 1, 3-5,) alto sax (2); Luis Rosa “El Chupa”: baritone sax (4); Jenny Scheinman: first violin (9); Megan Gould: second violin (9); Karen Waltuch: viola (9); Noah Hoffeld: cello (9); Miara Pastor: poetry reading (9).

Title: Roots Before Branches | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Self Produced


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