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Dongfeng Liu to Release “China Caribe” on Zoho Music



Dongfeng Liu

Dongfeng LiuRare is the occasion when an artist arrives on the scene who fundamentally reawakens your understanding not just of music but world history, common cultures, and shared values. Dongfeng Liu is this very type of artist. He is a maestro composer, arranger, jazz pianist and educator who draws upon musical influences from his native China, and fuses them with American jazz harmonies with Caribbean rhythms. China Caribe uncovers those buried pages of history in which Chinese immigrants journeyed to the Americas as early as the 1860s. In fact, Havana boasted the largest Chinese population in the Western hemisphere during this period.

DongFengLiu - China CaribeLiu’s CD celebrates and dramatizes these cultural cross currents. On this album, we hear what happens when cultures collide – a new sound, a unique aesthetic is born. You haven’t heard anything like China Caribe. I hadn’t. In a word, Liu’s music is peerless. These eight original compositions and arrangements are special and sparkling, meditative and magnificent.

The opening notes of In the Clouds are performed on the morin khuur, a Mongolian instrument that is also called a horsehead fiddle, in soundclips by the Hanggai Band, one of the leading folkloric Rock groups from Mongolia, and friends of Liu’s. This sound alone foreshadows what’s to come: We begin in the East, but by the time John Benitez’s round electric bass enters, we’re not quite back in the West but somewhere in between – a place that China Caribe will inhabit throughout each musical chapter.

Min Xiaofen plays the melody elegantly on the ruan, a traditional Chinese string instrument similar to a lute, with a round body and four strings. This piece is inspired by the Mongolian throat singing tradition called khoomei in which a vocalist sings two notes at once. In this tune, there is the sustained bass and melody. At the same time, the floating chords, taken together, form the second note. Indeed, the piece is masterfully conceived and arranged. Mirror Image features Liu with well-placed piano lines, Roberto Quintero on percussion, and Francis Benitez on drums. The melody of the beginning A section is adroitly inverted into a 6/8 feel in the B section. Liu suggests that when we gaze at ourselves, look more closely, because there is more going on than meets the eye. Similarly, when you encounter others, don’t just look for differences, but identify the shared values that we hold dear. We’re more alike than apart.

Colorful Clouds Chasing the Moon takes the melody from an ancient and folkloric Chinese song. Min Xiaofen takes the lead on the pipa, another ancient lute-style stringed instrument. She is followed by Liu performing the melody on the piano. There is a trenchant Afro-Cuban beat in 6/8 that creates an undulating, propulsive feeling until the timba 4/4 rhythm takes over during the solo section, in which Liu unleashes an incandescent improvisation that builds with block chords and dynamic phrasing.

L to R: Roberto Quintero, Dongfeng Liu, John Benitez, Francis Benitez. Photo: Melanie Futorian.

L to R: Roberto Quintero, Dongfeng Liu, John Benitez, Francis Benitez. Photo: Melanie Futorian.

I Know You starts with the intrepid hand percussion of Roberto Quintero which blends seamlessly into John Benitez’s syncopated bass groove. Indeed, the prelude and A section are in the odd-meter of 5/4, which transitions to 7/4 in the B section. “Latin music makes people want to dance,” says Liu. “But this piece isn’t suitable for dancing,” he observes. He notes that this is one of his favorite songs because the musicians have to interlock over an uneven rhythm, and ultimately have to learn about each other in the process. This piece is unadulterated virtuosity.

Arcadia is pure fusion. From the heavy synthesizer introduction and forceful back beat of the drums to piano painting and finally the melody on pipa. Liu chose the name of the song because it sounded like that of another world, the feeling he tries to evoke in this piece. Ultimately, the music is harmonious and suggests that it’s possible for people to make music (and live together) in a peaceful manner. Here too, Liu’s piano solo is pitch perfect, inhabiting the empty space, yet not clustering the piece with a barrage of sounds. The maestro uses the stillness, the calmness as an instrument itself which serves to dramatize the melody.

Coltrane’s Tune is Liu’s tribute to John Coltrane, whom he has long admired. The harmony is from Coltrane’s classic “Countdown.” Liu admits that the song is also inspired by Miles Davis’ “Tune Up.” Indeed, you can hear shades of both these vintage jazz songs. Of course, Liu renders them with novelty and originality. This tune is pure, uninhibited jazz trio.

Fisherman’s Song At Dusk comes from an ancient Chinese folkloric song. It refers to the performance of the Chinese Jiangnan Water Village during the sunset, as the fishing boats are sailing in the distance. Liu took this melody and recast it with several parts, from the cascading piano to the drums accenting the beats at the same time. Feifei Yang plays the melody on the erhu, a traditional Chinese bowed string instrument.

The album concludes with Moophy which is inspired by an instrument known as the “Moog Sub Phatty,” which Liu thoroughly enjoys playing. The A section has a terrific 7/4 groove that transforms into a 5/4 feel in the B section. The back-and-forth between Liu on the piano and Benitez on bass is the stuff of not just virtuosity but friendship. These two have forged a bond across idioms, styles, and cultures.

Admittedly, to say that this album is Chinese and Cuban can be reductionist. There are fifty-six ethnic groups in China alone who speak different languages and perform their own styles of music. Cuban and Afro-Caribbean music is certainly not without variety either. But this album will launch any listener onto a journey, even safari of discovery. It has been a pleasure producing Liu’s album with John Benitez and Doug Davis. We thoroughly enjoyed the adventure of fusing cultures and civilizations.

“I wanted to contribute a new voice, my voice to the conversation,” said Liu. Indeed, Liu has given us something to hold dear as we face the future. No matter the shifting sands of time and fate, we’re in a better place when we look for commonality. Liu has enriched and advanced that common language of all mankind – music.

–Kabir Sehgal
Multi-Grammy and Latin Grammy Award Winner
New York Times bestselling author

Track Listing: 1. In The Clouds; 2. Mirror Image; 3. Colorful Clouds Chasing the Moon; 4. I Know You; 5. Arcadia; 6. Coltrane’s Tune; 7. Fisherman’s Song at Dusk; 8. Moophy.

Personnel: Dongfeng Liu Piano; John Benitez Electric bass, Acoustic bass; Roberto Quintero Percussion # 1 – 5, 7; Francis Benitez Drums; Min Xiaofen Ruan # 1, Pipa # 3, 5; Feifei Yang Erhu # 7.

Special Guests: Hanggai Band Mongolian horsehead fiddle, Mongolian throat singing # 1.

Release Date: June 8, 2017. Produced by John Benitez, Kabir Sehgal and Doug Davis. Recorded on October 24, 2017 at Teaneck Sound, Teaneck, NJ. Recorded, Mixed & Mastered by Brian Chirlo. Art direction and Package Design by Jack Frisch. Photography: Melanie Futorian. Liner notes: Kabir Sehgal. Executive producer: Joachim “Jochen” Becker.

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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New Releases

Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band to release new recording: “Vox Humana”



Drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, bandleader, educator, Bobby Sanabria
Drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, bandleader, educator, Bobby Sanabria

Celebrating 25 years! The multi-Grammy nominated Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band is set to release their new recording: “Vox Humana” featuring vocalists Janis Siegel, Antoinette Montague, Jennifer Jade Ledesna.

Recorded Live at Dizzy’s Club Cola in NYC
Release Date: Spring 2023
Record Label: Jazzheads

New York – January 18th – On the heels of their Grammy nominated and 2019 Jazz Journalists Association Album of the Year Award winning critically acclaimed masterwork, West Side Story Reimagined, and in celebration of their 25th anniversary – drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, bandleader, educator, Bobby Sanabria and his Multiverse Big Band return with their most ambitious work to date, VOX HUMANA.

Bobby states, “Over the course of our many Grammy nominated albums we’ve occasionally featured tracks with vocals. But I’ve always envisioned doing an entire vocal album framed by the Multiverse Big Band. Now with three of today’s greatest contemporary singing talents – multi-Grammy award winner Janis Siegel from the Manhattan Transfer, blues and jazz Queen Antoinette Montague, and the multilingual powerhouse, Jennifer Jade Ledesna, today that vision has finally become a reality.

The individually distinct voices that Janis, Antoinette, and Jennifer possess make them each unique. But the X factor they all have is they are all masterful improvisors in the best sense of the jazz tradition. Added to the mix is our great conguero, Oreste Abrantes, who also sings lead on two tracks. Having that multi- dimensional vocal talent framed by the power, nuance, and tonal variety that only a big band can provide, combined with the repertoire I’ve chosen to showcase them and the band and the incredible variety of Afro- Latin, straight ahead swing, funk, R&B, and rock rhythmic vocabulary that we are masters of and readily have at our disposal in the Multiverse, I believe VOX HUMANA will prove to be our greatest achievement. 

Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band: "Vox Humana"
Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band: “Vox Humana”

That repertoire has a personal meaning to me as I see VOX HUMANA as a biographical work. I’m a product of my environment. I’m a Nuyorican, a person of Puerto Rican descent growing up in New York City. In my case the South Bronx during a time period when pop, jazz, R&B, rock, funk, and Latin music of all kinds all co-existed as equals. It was the last era when the big bands of masters like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Machito, Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, Don Ellis, and more were in the public eye, and they became my heroes. Vocalists who could deliver a message with subtlety, nuance, and when needed, power, were called upon to deliver poetry crafted by genius song writers. You’ll hear all that and more through the soaring vocals and improv talents of Janis, Antoinette, and Jennifer, along with Oreste, as well as the incredible jazz-oriented arrangements and exciting Pan Afro-Latin rhythms played by a big band that literally takes no prisoners when it hits the stage.”

The repertoire Bobby speaks of includes 1 original and 12 unique re-workings of pop hits like Spooky, Christine Aguilera’s Genie In a Bottle, and Steely Dan’s Do It Again; NEA Jazz Master Eddie Palmieri’s, Mi Congo and Puerto Rico along with the island’s greatest composer, Rafael Hernandez’s, Capullito De Aleli; the classic Joe Cuba R&B bolero, To Be With You; Brazilian standards Partido Alto and Amazonas; and from the world of Broadway theater, I Love You Porgy, and the iconic jump blues, Let The Good Times Roll. The CD also includes an original message bearing piece, Who Taught You That, as well as what may possibly be the most exciting interpretation of the Ellington associated classic, Caravan, and that has ever been recorded. 

Adding to the excitement of the performance, VOX HUMANA was recorded in front of a live audience. Bobby states, “As with our previous work, we recorded VOX HUMANA live at NYC’s Dizzy’s Club Coca – Cola. My musicians represent NYC’s finest. That means they’re the greatest in the world. The added level of excitement created by the audience inspired us in the MULTIVERSE Big Band to a heightened new level of performance virtuosity that listeners will hear explode out of the speakers just as the audience at Dizzy’s experienced in person.”

The history of the Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band is indeed one based on his rich multi-cultural heritage as a Nuyorican growing up in New York City’s South Bronx. His concept of having a big band that has no genre boundaries with limitless possibilities was forged 25 years ago back in 1998. It has yielded a series of groundbreaking, critically acclaimed albums that have all been Grammy-nominated with the band thrilling audiences worldwide at venues like the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, The Ravinia Festival, Verona Jazz Festival in Europe, and more.

Content Source: Two for the Show Media

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