La rumba is a lovesome thing. Indeed, indeed it is. And Billy Strayhorn is an artist worth paying tribute to. Not only for “Take the A Train”, but for “Blood Count”, “Lush Life”, “The Intimacy of the Blues”…for his incredible talent as a pianist, composer, lyricist, bon vivant. For being covered by everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Elvis Costello. And for his integrity as a human being and his willingness to just be himself.
ANOTHER ONE OF MY FAVORITE BILLY STRAYHORN SONGS…
For the last couple of years I’ve been choosing Strayhorn songs for this new CD, thinking of rhythms from across the Caribbean and South America that might work with each song, writing arrangements for my Octet, rehearsing, and trying out the music at live gigs. The whole thing started when this man suggested the band do an entire album of Strays:
For me Billy Strayhorn’s music is a little like Stevie Wonder’s. You know when you hear a Stevie song (especially from the classic 70’s era), and you think, that’s my favorite Stevie Wonder song! And then you hear another one and you think, oh, that’s my favorite Stevie Wonder song! Strayhorn is like that for me. Every one of the songs on La Rumba Is A Lovesome Thing is one of my all-time favorite Billy Strayhorn songs. Not that choosing the material for this album was easy; Billy’s music is harmonically very dense, and Latin rhythms tend to be very dense. Putting the two together could mean overload, so choosing the right song for the right rhythm was very challenging. Some songs I would have wanted to include on the record just didn’t work out. Another issue was translating pieces written as slow ballads into a Latin American framework. Billy wrote absolutely killer ballads and I had several in mind for the CD, but there aren’t a lot of slow Latin rhythms to draw on outside of bolero, and that just seemed too easy, and wasn’t really what I had in mind for this project anyway. So sometimes I had to double the harmonic rhythm, the amount of measures each chord is played, to make it work, like with our versions of Passion Flower and Sweet and Pungent.
LLEGÓ LA RUMBA
One thing that makes this CD different from the group’s previous projects is the presence of guest percussionists. Through years of playing, recording, and touring together, the group’s original core lineup has become very very tight, so it makes me ecstatic to add three masterful guest percussionists to the mix for La Rumba Is A Lovesome Thing.
I’ve known Pedrito Martinez, one the biggest rising stars on the world/Latin music scenes, since we met in 1999 playing on Juan Pablo Torres’ Town Hall concert Super Son Cubano: Cuban Music Without Frontiers. We then worked together in the Ileana Santamaría Orchestra, including on that group’s debut CD What I Want. It’s a great pleasure to have Pedrito on this disc; his contributions as conguero, batalero, and vocalist are immeasurable. If you’re in New York City and want to see one of the best live acts you’ll ever experience, definitely go by Guantanamera on Eighth Avenue and check out the Pedrito Martinez Group. Contact Pedrito’s manager to get on the gig email list.
Grammy Nominee Wilson “Chembo” Corniel is another of the heavyweights on the album. Chembo and I met playing in the band of bassist Harvie S around 2005. I thought of him when I was of the mind to add percussionists to this project, and he has helped work up the material with us by playing various live gigs since. Chembo’s subtly, touch, and musical ideas are the perfect percussive texture for songs like U.M.M.G., Chelsea Bridge and After All. He’s a true pro, and has a deep deep well of experience to draw on.
Here’s a little taste of us in the studio recording Johnny Come Lately:
La Rumba is a Lovesome Thing NYC CD Release Party @ Greenwich House July 11th, 2013
7 to 10 PM
Concert: 7 to 8:30/Reception & Meet the Artist 8:30 to 10
$15 Cover/$25 Cover + new CD
Full details at paulcarlonmusic.com
NEXT: GETTIN’ BOMBA ALL TONK’D UP!