Lakou Brooklyn releases “Kay Sa”

 

Haitian Roots Jazz is how drummer Markus Shwartz  describes the music on “Kay Sa”, Lakou Brooklyn’s new Soundkeeper release. Schwartz initiated the project, bringing to gether a handful of musicians whose work he admires, Godwin Louis on alto and soprano sax; Monvelyno Alexis on guitar vocals; and Bobby Raymond on bass. Saturday June 1st they celebrate the release of “Kay Sa”, at the Owl Music Parlor, 497 Rogers Avenue in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn.

Markus Schwartz and Monelvyno Alexis perfoming as Vu-Duo at The Inkwell in Brooklyn in 2012

Markus Schwartz and Monelvyno Alexis perfoming as Vu-Duo at The Inkwell in Brooklyn in 2012

The album has 7 cuts, 4 of which revolve around Traditional Haitian rhythms and songs, interpreted and extrapolated on by the musicians. The other two reimagine Thelonious Monk songs, a Rara take on “Epistrophy” and two versions of “Bye-Ya” done in the form of a bolero.

Kay Sa album cover. Kay Sa - means "This house" in Haitian Kreyol. the lyrics “ Kay O, Kay Sa se kay lwa mwen” mean “this house is the house of my spirits.” It invokes the familial/ancestral spiritual energies.

Kay Sa album cover. Kay Sa - means "This house" in Haitian Kreyol. the lyrics “ Kay O, Kay Sa se kay lwa mwen” mean “this house is the house of my spirits.” It invokes the familial/ancestral spiritual energies.

Drummer Markus Schwartz knowledge of Vodou rhythms and songs is the starting point.  “Sen Jak Pa La” a well known vodou song offers insight into the roots/jazz relationship. The song features call and response that, Markus says,”can be played over several different rhythms. Our version was inspired by a 1947 field recording by anthropologist Laura Boulton, who spent 35 years recording traditional music around the world. The rhythm is a salute called Ochan (from the French “aux champs,” literally “to the fields” or “forward march”) and derives from military drumming. Godwin plays the part of the Òunjenikan (ritual song leader) on the saxophone, while the rest of the band responds as Òunsi (the chorus) while playing the full Rada drum ensemble of Manman (lead), Segon (middle drum), and Boula (smallest drum).”

CD Release Party for Markus Schwartz Haitian Drums in the Brooklyn Yard at SOBs december 7th 2008. the show included musicians from the vibrant local Haitian music scene including vocalist and dancer Erol Josue; Guadeloupan sax ophoinist Jacques Schwarz-Bart; Jean Caze who later recorded with Lakou Brooklyn; Ugonna Okegwo on bass, Frederic Las Fargeas on keyboard; Buyu Ambroise (pictured) sax; backing vocals and dance Nadia Dieudonne; Dadi Beaubrun vocals; On drums and percussion: Markus Schwartz, Jean Marie Brignol, Daniel Brevil and Portsha Jefferson.

CD Release Party for Markus Schwartz Haitian Drums in the Brooklyn Yard at SOBs december 7th 2008. the show included musicians from the vibrant local Haitian music scene including vocalist and dancer Erol Josue; Guadeloupan sax ophoinist Jacques Schwarz-Bart; Jean Caze who later recorded with Lakou Brooklyn; Ugonna Okegwo on bass, Frederic Las Fargeas on keyboard; Buyu Ambroise (pictured) sax; backing vocals and dance Nadia Dieudonne; Dadi Beaubrun vocals; On drums and percussion: Markus Schwartz, Jean Marie Brignol, Daniel Brevil and Portsha Jefferson.

“Minis Azaka” and “Wongol” both traditionals feature lyrics by Alexis, and “Kay Sa” has additional music by Schwartz and Alexis. “Epistrophy” features a brilliant solo by Louis interacting with the rara bamboo horns - inspired by a Shadow Wilson’s drumming on a live recording with Thelonious Monk.  The relationship between Haitian and Cuban music is behind the choice to play “Bye-Ya as a bolero.  that hinted at the cultural links between Haiti, Cuba, and New Orleans which date date from the late 1700’s migration to New Orleans accelerated by the revolution in San Domingue, predating Congo Square and jazz.

The album was recorded in one take, live for a single mic in a church in Sparkill NY, built in 1864. Markus shared some material with the musicians in advance - various rhythmic motifs he created/arranged, different songs with notes about the approach he wanted to take. “then we rehearsed a few times and played the new material live on a couple of gigs.  We did one good rehearsal right before the recording date and we were ready!”

 
Markus Schwartz playing the Tanbou Petwo. On “Kay Sa” he plays two Petwo drums along with ride cymbal, cajon, and foot percussion (shaker and bass drum pedal on the cajon)

Markus Schwartz playing the Tanbou Petwo. On “Kay Sa” he plays two Petwo drums along with ride cymbal, cajon, and foot percussion (shaker and bass drum pedal on the cajon)

  The location was chosen for its acoustics and the geometry of the space by master engineer Barry Diament. The goal of his company, Soundkeeper Recording, is to bring the listener to the performance, to create the feeling the listener is in the presence of the musicians, in the space where the performance actually took place. Markus says “ Barry has been able to capture the sound of the Haitian drums. His recordings are very subtle but dramatic in the high and low ranges, the peaks and valleys. We approached the recording like a live gig with a set list, the postioning of the musicians (with the louder instruments further from the microphone) so that   all of the sounds: acoustic electric, traditional and modern mixing in the air are picked up. This unique approach allows the listener, for example, to hear both the the electric sound of Monelvyno’s guitar amp and the acoustic sound of his pick on the strings. 

Monvelyno Alexis on guitar, his project with Riva Précil,  Bohio Music , has just released “Ayiti Nan Kay La”

Monvelyno Alexis on guitar, his project with Riva Précil, Bohio Music, has just released “Ayiti Nan Kay La”

“The uniqueness of the ensemble and the musical repertoire are an interesting match” Markus says, “One highlighting the other”. The performance at the Owl Music Parlor is the only scheduled gig for the quartet for the time being. The album is avalable in CD or hi res formats at http://www.soundkeeperrecordings.com

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