Perhaps better than any politician or diplomat, musicians – especially jazz musicians, whose craft is in many ways an improvised form of communication – understand inherently that when we look at each other as individuals and focus on the similarities, the divide between us is actually very short – less than a hundred miles.
Vibraphonist Stefon Harris, saxophonist David Sánchez and trumpeter Christian Scott first crossed that divide on their acclaimed two-disc CD/DVD package, Ninety Miles, released June 21, 2011. Recorded during the same trip, their first and only live performance, Ninety Miles Live At Cubadisco, is set for special U.S. digital release September 25, 2012 (international release dates may vary) on Concord Picante.
Ninety Miles Live At Cubadisco was recorded May 18, 2010 at Cubadisco, one of the biggest music festivals in Cuba, at Teatro Amadeo Roldán in Havana, with the help of some highly talented Cuban musicians – pianists Harold López-Nussa and Rember Duharte, each leading their own quartets. This seven-song live set further explores the chemistry of Ninety Miles and takes their virtuosity to another level as musicians from different cultures converse in a common language that transcends words.
“The entire experience was about the power of music to communicate and break down some of the barriers that result from language and politics and culture, ” says John Burk, Chief Creative Officer of Concord Music Group and producer of Ninety Miles and Ninety Miles Live At Cubadisco, along with Chris Dunn, Senior Director of A&R. “I was particularly impressed with Harold and Rember, ” Burk says. “I found it really interesting that these musicians had studied and embracedthe jazz genre (an American art form) and taken it to such a high level.” While Ninety Miles was a snapshot of the rehearsals just prior to the 2010 live performance, Ninety Miles Live At Cubadisco is a high powered musical look back at the week’s events, culminating in the first and only time they would all perform together live.
Harris, a four-time GRAMMY®-nominated vibist-percussionist, is no stranger to adventurous collaborative projects. A native of Albany, New York, his earliest work included session gigs with Joe Henderson and Buster Williams in the 1990s before he recorded his solo debut in 1998 on Blue Note (A Cloud of Red Dust). He’s cut seven albums since then, including his GRAMMY®-nominated Concord Jazz debut Urbanus. Harris contributes two tracks to Ninety Miles Live At Cubadisco: “This Too Shall Pass” and “Brown Belle Blues, ” written especially for this project.
David Sánchez, a GRAMMY®-winning saxophonist, brings plenty of his own cross-cultural sensibilities to the project. A native of Puerto Rico, he moved to New York City at 18 and studied at Rutgers University under Kenny Barron. He has performed with numerous Latin jazz masters over the years, including his mentor, Dizzy Gillespie, Paquito D’Rivera and the great Eddie Palmieri. In a body of recorded work that stretches back to the mid-1990s, Sánchez has crafted a signature sound that seamlessly merges elements of Afro-Cuban rhythm with bebop. Sánchez’s “City Sunrise” was inspired by music from Cameroon, and his second contribution, “The Forgotten Ones, ” written for the people of post-Katrina New Orleans was originally recorded on his Concord Picante debut Cultural Survival.
Born and raised in New Orleans, GRAMMY®-nominated trumpeter Christian Scott has been blending elements of alternative rock, jazz, hip hop, and classical since his 2006 debut recording, Rewind That. On Ninety Miles Live At Cubadisco, he taps into the Cuban roots that are not only a part of his home but his family history as well. Scott contributes the track “Paradise Found, ” a tune written by his uncle Donald Harrison, the Big Chief of the Congo Nation Afro-New OrleansCultural Group. Scott’s latest recording, Christian aTunde Adjuah, was released July 31, 2012 on Concord Jazz.
Each of the two Cuban pianists offers a track of his own to the live set, which further heightens the performance. “Harold and Rember are from the same generation, and yet they have two completely different approaches, ” says Sánchez. “Rember is more rooted in the African sound, and he’s a little more raw in some ways. But Harold is completely different. You hear the Cuban influences in his music, and perhaps more of the western European classical piano.”
The undeniable energy and excitement of Ninety Miles Live At Cubadisco is a clear statement about the power of music to unite in ways that politics and diplomacy can’t. “The arts can lead the way because they are the universal language, ” says Burk. “And music is certainly one of the most powerful forces within the arts. You can change someone’s life in five minutes with the right piece of music. I don’t know of any other art form that can do that. These records do illustrate a way – or at least the ability – for people to work together despite differences.”