I think that if artists like John Coltrane and Dexter Gordon were still with us, they surely would commend Alix ‘'Buyu'' Ambroise very recent release entitled ‘'Marasa''. I for one had been eagerly waiting for this release and, believe me, I was not disappointed, not at all. Au contraire! The wait was well worth it.
Marasa is an excellent CD in all aspects. Right from the start of the first tune, a traditional Haitian incantation song called “ Pryè Ginen”,you are transported in Coltrane's world. What a job Buyu does with his phrasing at times subtle, forceful, haunting and always expressive. Meanwhile, Lou Rainone on the piano is reminiscent of this other giant sidekick of Coltrane, pianist McCoy Tiner. This is a wonderful combination which is a perfect introduction to a beautiful album. On each one of the 9 songs which comprise Marasa, Ambroise and a tremendous cast of musicians display great maturity and ease in their play. As you listen to the songs, you can feel the harmony and the perfect cohesion among the musicians. This is a great combination for good music.
Ambroise and his crew show such sensitivity for example in tune No. 2 “Café”, a song made popular by Ibo Combo and which I had forgotten about . This jazz arrangement is just excellent. There, Buyu's sound reminds me of the late jazz saxophonist Dexter Gordon. In my view, what makes Buyu's CD extremely enjoyable and satisfying is his choice to draw deep into the Haitian repertoire for his music. As he says in the liner notes, it was his “labor of love”. Indeed, without saying it, one could feel the love flowing, wholly transparent and full of feeling.
Whether it is the title tune, “Marasa”, in which there is a rich mixture of jazz, Haitian Rara supported by the brass section's wonderful harmony and Ambroise's tremendous sax solo and the trumpet's equally competent performance; whether it is the beautiful slow “Parfois”, a composition by Albert Chancy, Tabou Combo's former guitarist, or any other tune on the CD for that matter, I had very great pleasure in listening to it over and over again, everytime discovering some nuances here and there which I had not caught previously. Tune No. 2 “Dilere-Tiga's tune” starts off on vigorous drumming by the well-known James “Tiga” Jean-Baptiste, someone who does not need any introduction. Later, Buyu and pianist Rainone provides more shades of Coltrane and McCoy for our enjoyment.
The arrangements on Tune No. 7 “Footprints”, a composition by this other giant of the saxophone, Wayne Shorter, is simply excellent. Starting off on a yanvalou beat, it goes quickly to a tremendous Haitian rara beat when one expects it the least. The beat throughout the song keeps you on the move, as Tiga on the drums keeps on our toes. Surely, Wayne Shorter did not expect this kind of arrangement by Paul Beaudry who purposely gave “ the drums a prominent role throughout the piece” according to the liner notes. I could say much more about the other songs, such as tune No. 8, in which the alternates between a yanvalou beat and a fast jazz beat, then comes back to yanvalou in a seamless manner. Toward the end of the song, you can hear an nice repartee between the sax and the trumpet , a nice dialogue we wish could have gone longer. Another interesting arrangement by Ambroise and pianist Rainone can also be heard in tune No. 9, “Wangol”. In this song played on a New Orleans style, Ambroise and Rainone sought to bridge the gap between Haiti and New Orleans and what better way to do it than playing the music with common roots! There again, this objective was certainly realized.
We have really been spoiled this year in terms of Haitian Jazz. Along with Reginald Policard, Turgot Theodate, Mushi Widmaier, now Alix Buyu Ambroise, we have had a nice string of excellent music. We could not ask for more. Buyu's CD is a tremendous addition to the Haitian jazz repertoire, with an added element, if I could put this way. With the exception of “Footprints”, all the eight songs are drawn upon typical Haitian tunes, and even Footprints is subjected to a thorough Haitian makeover, demonstrating Alix “Buyu” Ambroise's determination to show Haiti's…..footprints in the genre idiom. What he plays is immediately recognizable by any Haitian; but at the same time, no one can deny that his music is not only firmly grounded in jazz, but in the type of Jazz played by such masters as John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Mccoy Tiner and others. That is why I find his music remarkable in its approach and concept. I am already eagerly waiting for the third one. I know, I know, it is way too early to talk about that, but, with this kind of quality work put out by an artist like Buyu, it is not as if I were asking for the sky, but rather a tribute to his latest work.
Haitian Jazz lovers will derive exceptional pleasure in listening to this release which has to be one of the best for 2006. I urge everyone to go buy his or her copy; for, if you are anywhere like me, you will not tire of listening to such nice work again and again!
Help fight Haitian CD piracy, it is bad for everyone.
Serge Bellegarde, for Windows on Haiti, December 2006
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