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Slavo Rican Assembly: ‘Moving Up’

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In the words of bandleader Jan Kus, ‘Moving Up’ is a song about optimism and determination:  “This song is a sort of Slavo-Rican anthem. It’s about dealing with hardships in life, and getting out on top. The melody throws you a curve ball — just like life — but the chorus ends in a danceable Balkan fanfare that shows that no matter what the world throws at you, the good in people will always win out!” Built over a Cuban son montuno with a Balkan rhythmic twist, ‘Moving Up‘ is a slow-burner that veers off into unexpected, electronica-infused places: a tweaked Latin jazz workout that showcases Slavo Rican Assembly’s vision and versatility.

With band members from Slovenia, Puerto Rico, Serbia, and Cuba,  Slavo Rican Assembly uses the international vocabulary of jazz as a springboard to delve deep into the sounds of their own musical roots – bomba, salsa and rumba  bump up against  Slovenian harvest songs, Bosnian lullabies, Serbian laments, Balkan brass and other melancholic South Slavic sounds  in a musical sofrito that’s 100% New York.

Aleksandra Denda (Serbia): vocals; Jan Kus (Slovenia): saxophone, synth overdubs; Gabriel Vicéns (Puerto Rico): electric guitar; Ahmed Alom Vega (Cuba): piano, keyboard; Dan Martínez (Puerto Rico): electric bass; Victor Pablo (Puerto Rico): percussion; Jean John (Slovenia): drums.

Slavo Rican Assembly – Photo credit: Vianca Maldonado

Following the critical acclaim of his chart-topping debut album as a leader, Faith, the eclectic NY-based saxophonist Jan Kus extends his group further, and heads into the direction he has been naturally drawn to for the last few years. His new project unites his experiences from the NYC Latin Jazz music scene (where as a member of the Fernando García Sextet, Jan recorded on one of Downbeat’s “best albums of 2018”) with his Slovenian roots.

The main focus of the Slavo Rican Assembly is the exploration of the similarities and differences between the music of the Puerto Rican (and generally, Caribbean), and South Slavic cultures, merging them into a cohesive, brand-new and unique sound.

The band members (3 Puerto Ricans, 2 Slovenians, 1 Cuban, plus a Serbian vocalist!) combine the musical traditions from the Balkans and beyond with the ones of the Caribbean, synthesizing them seamlessly in a never-before-heard, attractive, heartfelt and powerful rhythmical entity.

Latin Jazz Network is a project dedicated to the advancement of Latin jazz and its creators. Since 2000 LJN has been spreading the word about this wonderful music known under the umbrella term: LATIN JAZZ.

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Featured Videos

Grant Richards’ Live Performance of “Ballyhoo”

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Grant Richards

Grant Richards – a pianist deeply immersed in bebop and the blues – leads his music in a bold
and emergent new direction with Ballyhoo, an Afro-Cuban celebration of a previously unspoken
dream, finally realized in a tangible elation of musicianship, culture, and unbridled wonder.
Richards, like the great jazz composers throughout history, wrote the music on Ballyhoo not for
generic instruments, but for the specific and unique musical personalities of the musicians in his
ensemble.

Ballyhoo is the title track from my new album, my first excursion into Latin jazz, combining
many elements that get me out of my comfort zone like intricate grooves, odd keys, and the
necessity for precise execution,” Richards shares. “The title implies an excited commotion and
with the crisp performance by my bandmates Damian Erskine, Reinhardt Melz, and Carmelo
Torres
, I think this track embodies the exuberance and playfulness I intended for the project as a
whole.”

Album cover - Grant Richards: Ballyhoo
Album cover – Grant Richards: Ballyhoo

What is Ballyhoo? The word embodies sensation, animation and enthusiasm, and the record at
its core presents all of the same. Ballyhoo was released on September 24, 2021.

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