Jazz travels : a portfolio of jazz compositions and arrangements of African inspiration.
The pieces presented in this portfolio are in some ways a synthesis of my own musical history up to this point in time. Though I was scarcely aware as a child, I now know that the diverse strains of modem African American music and their largely non-African American inspirations originate from the larger, older branches of Jazz and Blues. Nevertheless, the music that forms the lion's share of my early musical memories-African American and African American inspired music- is still quite distinct from its West African ancestral music that I would later come to learn and love so much. After being inspired primarily by Rhythm and Blues, Rock, Blues and Jazz through the pre-teen and teenage years, I discovered Latin music of Cuban origin. Soon after that I began to explore traditional Afro-Cuban and West African music. These new musics resonated strongly with me, and I began to learn and play them not long after that first exposure. A probable reason for the aforementioned resonance lies in the 'rhythmic priming' provided by my early exposure to African American music. This state of rhythmic awareness was excited by the complex rhythmic interplay subsequently heard between West African musicians and between Afro-Cuban musicians, hinted at but rarely as fully developed in the African American music I was used to. In retrospect, it makes perfect sense that this rhythmic sensibility, developed through exposure to American music, would be stimulated and fulfilled by traditional West African percussion music. As much as I came to enjoy that type of polyrhythmic, percussion based music, however, in time I also began to wonder at the possibility of creating a similar music but with more harmonic movement, perhaps even modulation to different keys. This would require different instruments, and it would require mastery of another musical world: that of western, and in particular for my sensibilities, Jazz harmony. This pursuit-the attempt to combine at once an African rhythmic sensibility with a Jazz harmonic sensibility-is one that will no doubt occupy me for some time into the future. It is also a major source of inspiration, sometimes obvious and at other times more subtle, in the creation of this portfolio. The aforementioned fusion of African rhythm and Western harmony, in conceptual terms, is not something altogether new. That rhythmic, melodic and harmonic complexities co-exist in the Jazz tradition is no secret. What's more, much of the music referred to as 'Latin' is named as such because it has already absorbed and incorporated the rhythmic vitality of the African origins of much of the populace, and their predisposition to Afro-Latin (Afro-Cuban, Afro-Dominican, Afro-Puerto Rican, Afro-Brazilian, etc.) folkloric music with its direct link to the percussive music of West Africa. However, composition and arrangement are processes of the individual. I don't claim to be the first one to attempt the stated objective combination of African and European elements; what I can say is that I am the first one to do it in my own particular way. Thus this portfolio presents a combination, not only of different styles, but of underlying objectives as well. These objectives have been in mind throughout the creative process. In addition to the aforementioned objective of blending African and Jazz elements (1), it has been my intent to demonstrate proficiency in more traditional Jazz, Latin and even orchestral arranging frameworks (2), hopefully achieving a balance that allows my own voice to shine subtly through (3).