Jazz CD Reviews

Stefon Harris/David Sanchez/ Christian Scott – Ninety Miles – Live At Cubadisco – Concord Picante

The music works when politics and geography do not.

Published on November 20, 2012

Stefon Harris/David Sanchez/ Christian Scott – Ninety Miles – Live At Cubadisco – Concord Picante

Stefon Harris/David Sanchez/Christian Scott – Ninety Miles – Live At Cubadisco – Concord Picante CPI 34173, 59:58 ***½:

(Stefon Harris – vibraphone; David Sanchez – tenor saxophone; Christian Scott – trumpet (except 4/7); tracks 2/5/6- Rember Duarte – piano, vox; Osmar Salazar – electric bass; Eduardo Barroetabena – drums; Juan Roberto San Miguel – batá, conga, percussion; tracks 1/3/4/6; Harold López-Nussa – piano; Yandy Martinez González – bass; Ruy Adrián López- Nussa – drums, batá; Edgar Martinez Ochoa – batá, congas, djembe & percussion)

On a state visit to Canada on May 17, 1961, the late President John F. Kennedy said the following about Canada: ”Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends”. Regrettably, not the same can be said for Cuba which is just some ninety miles from the southern tip of the Florida Keys. So near and yet so far. Nevertheless some American jazz musicians, who speak the universal language of music, travelled to Havana to record with some seriously talented Cuban players, the results of which are to be found in this album Ninety Miles – Live At Cubadisco. 

Having just reviewed the Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz album, this release is clearly coming from a different place, with a more cerebral and less visceral approach. That is not necessarily bad, just different. American jazz artists (Harris/Sanchez/Scott) are all well-known, while the Cuban players would less likely be recognized by most jazz enthusiasts. Four of the compositions are by the U.S. team with two others emanating from the pen of the Cuban pianists Duarte and López-Nussa. The structure of all the pieces is striking, harmonically and musically intricate, and diversely inclined. This is not easy listening and requires work by the audience, who are attentive throughout the pieces.

“And This Too Shall Pass” along with “Brown Belle Blues” from Stefon Harris start the process to bridge the artistic divide and bring all the multi-cultural determinations into play, all the while giving notice to the compositions’ blues roots. “City Sunrise,” which is a David Sanchez composition, was according to him inspired by the music from the African country of Cameroon. His piece “The Forgotten Ones”, which is a more tranquil offering, was meant as a gift to the folks of post- Katrina New Orleans. All in all, each piece and the interaction between the musicians, is full measure for the intention of the project.

This album is an exemplary statement that music transcends geography and politics.

TrackList: And This Too Shall Pass; Brown Belle Blues; City Sunrise; The Forgotten Ones; Congo; Paradise Found; La Fiesta Va

—Pierre Giroux

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