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Abrazo: The Havana Sessions

James Nadal By

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It what might be considered a historic occasion, in November of 2015, PARMA producer Bob Lord conceptualized Abrazo: The Havana Sessions; the music of composers Bunny Beck, Roger Bourland, Donald Bowyer, Margaret Brandman, John Carollo, Timothy Miller, and Michael Murray, performed by classical musicians, and chorales of Cuba. In an expansive undertaking encompassing works for big band, jazz combos, choir and chamber ensembles, there was a blurring of genres and distinctions, creating new modes of expression, combinations, and ideas. The sessions are divided into two discs, with disc one being the Latin jazz selections, and disc two the classic chorale and chamber offerings.

Disc One: "Hot Miami Nights," and "On An Autumn Day," composed by Timothy Lee Miller are big band arrangements which brought in special guests from the innovative group Irakere for the Afro-Cuban element. The orchestra musicians are current or former members of the National Symphony of Cuba, so the charts are performed with rhythmic precision. The big band setting continues into "Bugs and Gas," by Don Bowyer, who being a trombonist, gives a generous dose of trombones to the composition for maximum impact.

"Jazz Instrumental Suite, Jazz Vocal Suite," presents the music of Bunny Beck in a scaled down format of an extended jazz ensemble. Arranged by Juan Manuel Ceruto and featuring the impressive piano work of Rolando Luna, it is a showcase of Cuban styles as son, cha-cha-cha, and danzon, on the first part. Vocalist Will Dailey augments the band for the second part vocal suite, introducing an American popular nuance amidst the tropical configuration.

Disc Two: "Alarcón Madrigals, Book 3," music by Roger Bourland, poetry by Francisco Xavier Alarcón, is a lush, haunting, five-part acapella chorale by Vocal Luna, a prodigious Cuban female choir. John A. Carollo's "Burlesque," consists of a five movement depicting a story of a woman who learns music from a trumpeter and guitarist. These parts are played perfectly by Fadev Sanjudo Rodriguez on trumpet, and guitarist Merlyn de la Caridad Corona Perez.

"Warm Winds In Havana," composed by Margaret Brandman features a saxophone quartet accented by Cuban congas and the defining claves. Revolving around the themes of a day and nocturnal sojourn in Havana: brief promenade, soft sunrise, dance of the day, and the rhythm of the night. A brass trio consisting of trombone, French horn and trumpet set the scenario for "Coloring With Water," by Mel Mobley, a composer known for his choreographic associations. The Schola Cantorum Coralina choir, conducted by Alina Orraca perform Michael Murray's "After The Fall," with lyrics/poetry by Jode Kanter. It is a three movement somber incantation in honor of 9/11, the victims, survivors, and aftermath. The final segment "Changing Home," in this composition attempts to convey how the world has changed since those events, and how horror can be portrayed through the beauty and healing forces of music.

This was quite a production. Bob Lord took his PARMA recording team to Havana, and the sessions were done over a few days, between Nov. 9 through 13, 2015, under the direction of Dayron Ortega, their man in Havana. As one can imagine there was the logistical challenge, as well as the bureaucratic and diplomatic hurdles they encountered. These recordings brought about the creation of the new Ansonica Records label, in hopes of continuing these endeavors, and exposing them on a global scale.

Track Listing: Hot Miami Nights; On An Autumn Day; Bugs & Gas; Jazz Instrumental Suite, Jazz Vocal Suite; Alarcon, Madrigals Book3; Burlesque; Warm Winds In Havana; Coloring With Water; After The Fall.

Personnel: Joaquin Betancourt: conductor; Yuniel Lombida Prieto: alto sax; Javier Zalba: alto sax; Michel Herrera: tenor sax; Osmel Cuellar: tenor sax; Evaristo Denis: bari sax; Lazaro Oviedo: trumpet; Tommy Laurent Garcia: trumpet; Alberto Mesa: trumpet; Julio Rigal: trumpet; Yoandy Argudin: trombone; Diana Saiz: trombone; Osley Patridge: trombone; Iovani Garzon: trombone; Raul Verdecia: classical guitar; Lazaro Rivero: acoustic bass; Emiio Morales: piano; Enrique Pla: drums; Bernardo Bolanos: congas, percussion; Carlos Miyares: tenor sax (4); Yasek Manzano : trumpet (4); Rolando Luna: piano (4); Oliver Valdez: drums (4); Mary Paz: congas (4); Vocal Luna: chorale choir (5); Wilmia Quinones: conductor (5); Fadev Sanjudo Rodriguez: trumpet (6, 8); Merylyn de la Caridad Corona Perez: guitar: (6); Leonardo Jimenez: tenor sax (7); Aliet Gonzales: tenor sax (7); Javier Zalba: bari sax (7); Andres Coayo: percussion; Maricel Gonzales Valdes: trombone (8); Susana Venereo Martin: French horn (8); Schola Cantorum Coralina: chorale choir (9); Alina Orraca: conductor (9).

Title: The Havana Sessions | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Ansonica Records

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