GETTIN’ BOMBA ALL TONK’D UP!
In Part I of this three-part series I introduced two of the special guest percussionists featured on La Rumba is A Lovesome Thing. Last but emphatically not least in the guest percussionist lineup is Obanilu Ire.
Obanilu has worked in a variety of environments and brings much knowledge and a deep feel to the traditional Puerto Rican musical style called Bomba. He came to the project on the recommendation of the group’s vocalist Christelle Durandy. I was very intrigued by the Strayhorn song Tonk, and was looking for a rhythmic feel that could make it work for this project. It’s an uptempo song so I needed an uptempo rhythm, or needed to double it up somehow. Bomba was the perfect fit, especially after I checked out the piano figure Billy had written as an intro. Often times one needs to alter a preexisting instrumental part in order to make it fit within a new rhythmic context (as I had to do on the melody of Johnny Come Lately), but with the Tonk intro I didn’t need to change a note; it fit the Bomba feel perfectly. So off I went, bringing a little modern tonality to the melody and filling out the arrangement with trumpet and tres solos to set up Obanilu’s extended solo on the subidor.
Obanilu also laid down a serious percussion pad of barriles and maracas on the entire track, providing the essential percussive element to the bomba feel. In the studio, trumpet wizard Alex Norris and mi hermano, tresero Benjamin Lapidus carved their names all over this cut. Trivia: the horn soli mid-tune is an adaptation of the traditional bomba song “Campo yo vivo triste”.
You can check out our version of Tonk on my website; click the ‘Listen’ link on the menu bar.
Numbers-wise the most prominent element of this group is the horn section: there are five of us. With this lineup (tenor, alto, trumpet, and two trombones), I get the best of the jazz and Latin worlds: the classic three-horn small group jazz sound plus the classic Cuban trombone blend. And with alto saxophonist Anton Denner doubling so masterfully on flute, we get the added benefit of the sound of a charanga band. My inspiration in writing for the horns runs somewhere between the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Gil Evans, the vocal sound of the great folkloric rumba groups like Los Muñequitos de Matanzas or Yoruba Andabo, and the soulful spirit of the original three Wailers. In addition to the aforementioned Alex Norris and Anton Denner, the horn section includes trombonists Mike Fahie, Mark Miller, and Ryan Keberle (these three switch out the parts so that it’s two trombonists per track). Each of these guys are incredibly distinctive soloists and each is featured at least once on La Rumba is A Lovesome Thing. Mike opens up with an incendiary solo on the jam at the end of Take the A Train. Mark is featured throughout After All, and Ryan shows why he’s such a sought after player on Sweet and Pungent. Alex is featured on Tonk and on Chelsea Bridge; Anton is also featured in the tres/flute trading on the vamp of Chelsea Bridge, and shows his mastery of the alto on Day Dream. As well as being incredible sectional players and soloists, all of these hornmen have established themselves as top call players in New York. Which reminds me, if you ever run into Mark, ask him to tell you his story about working with Diana Ross…
AH YES, THE CHANTEUSE…
One aspect of this project I really enjoyed was writing for my good friend, vocalist Christelle Durandy. A native of France with Caribbean and African roots, Christelle is an incredible performer who brings incisive phrasing and keen musical instincts to the table. Christelle’s been singing with my Octet since 2006, but this was the first time we’d tackled this kind of material. I threw her some curve balls with some of the vocal arrangements, but she did her homework and brought them vividly to life, illuminating the lushness of the melodies and lyrics in such a beautiful way.
Christelle is also steeped in the Afro-Cuban traditions; the vocal tracking she and Pedrito laid down on Johnny Come Lately and the Afro-Cuban chant on Take the A Train add a profoundly transcendent human element to La Rumba is A Lovesome Thing.
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: THE RHYTHM SECTION CATS