Markus Schwartz & Lakou Brooklyn – Equinox – SoundkeeperRecordings.com SR4002, 43:19 (avail. in many diff. formats; this one is 96K/24-bit DVD-R) ****:
(Markus Schwartz – Haitian drums, loop sampler, vocals, conch shell; Jean Caze – trumpet, Flugelhorn, vocals, conch shell; Monvelyno Aleis – elec. guitar vocals, percussion; Paul Beaudry – doublebass, percussion)
True hi-res DVD-Rs are becoming available from some sources, such as the small but staunchly audiophile label Soundkeeper. They’re nice for those of us still into the physical product but into hi-res not having to deal with downloads.
Markus Schwartz was born in Copenhagen but brought up in an American household surrounded by jazz. He has become a specialist in traditional Haitian religious music and especially percussion. He studied the powerful drumming styles of various Haitian performers and is now a first call percussionist in the Haitian jazz community. He lives in the heart of “Lakou” Brooklyn – hence the name of his ensemble. (The word means “historic relgious compounds.”) Jean Caze won the 2006 International Trumpet Guild Jazz Competition and has played with Herbie Hancock, John Fadis and Randy Brecker, to name a few. Monvelyno Alexis is from Port-au-Prince and began playing guitar as a teenager; he has worked with Haiti’s most famous jazz musicians.
The perfectionist goals of Soundkeeper Recordings are to capture their performers just as they would be heard by a listener present at a live performance. The players come in and perform just as they would at a live concert. There is no multi-miking each player, use of headphones, acoustic baffles, EQ, compression or other gadgets. There are six tracks on the disc, described in some detail in the note booklet.
One might expect a rather repetitious percussion sound from the three percussionists, but actually it is extremely varied due partly to Schwartz’ use of the DigiTech JamMan loop pedal – a sampler which enables him to record multiple iterations of his Haitian drums in real time and then to loop their tracks in playback to create the effect of a full battery of furious Haitian drummers. No electronic drum sounds or click tracks were used in the creation of the loops.
At over 11 minutes, the traditional “Seremoni Tiga” is the longest track on the disc, with lyrics from a traditional Haitian Vodou chant. “Equinox” is a John Coltrane composition. It honors one of the only two days in the year when day and night are in perfect balance. Markus Schwartz also shares his birthday with John Coltrane. The four musicians are very clearly placed on the audio soundstage, with plenty of “air” around them. This disc should be a fine demo of your audio system’s abilities, from the deep bass frequencies of some of the drums to the extended high end of the trumpet and some other percussion. And as with most hi-res two-channel sources, Dolby ProLogic II, DTS Neo-6 or Circle Surround can deliver excellent surround effects.
Kote Moun Yo?, Yanvalloux, Seremoni Tiga, Cecia, Equinox, Gede Drum-n-Bass
— John Sunier