This album by the composer and tenor saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart Jazz Racine Haïti is significant for several factual reasons and the core aspects and of the internecine connection of these aspects with the music triangulated between Africa, Europe and the Americas. First the facts: the people of Haïti—erstwhile slaves from the kingdom of Dahomey were the first to be freed from bondage. It is known that groups of this Diaspora dispersed between Haïti, Guantanamo, Cuba and Louisiana, especially New Orleans. This gave rise to a new triangulated source of the African-Cuban-American music of early jazz and what has seemingly fueled the spiritualism of jazz throughout its history until even the modern day, via Santeria, Voodoo and Candomblé. Haïti has and will always be uniquely related to jazz in the same manner as Santeria is to African-Cuban music and Candomblé is to African-Brasilian music. The base of the musical roots of Haïti is Racine, which in turn is distinctly related to man’s spiritualism and is also the relationship of the relentless God with his human subjects; as ancient as man himself, but also more ancient than that as it formed the existence of a God that transcends time and place. This is also the God of Racine who pursued the soul of man relentlessly, often with tragic consequences, but nevertheless with singular intent: to possess man as his own creation.
As with his soul so also with his music and relationship lies at the heart of the meditative music of Jacques Bart-Schwarz. Music; that is the “Racine” music and the kinship that lies at the root of Voodoo melds with jazz and—in the very essence of this (jazz) music—the blood-curdling, spine-chilling blues from whence Jazz was born is what bursts forth as in a vortex from the horns of Mr. Schwarz-Bart and Etienne Charles and from the chants of the Voodoo priests Erol Josue and Ronza Zila. The drumming and ritual drumming of Obed Calvaire and Jean Bonga… Sound and silence; silence and sound… Echoes in the chamber of each note that is played by the musicians and uttered by the Voodoo priests. The cultural collision that lies at the sound burst of Jacques Schwarz-Bart’s Jazz and between the chants of Dahomey open out the whole cosmology of Voodoo multiplying the Christian galaxy of spirituals with the deities subsumed by Christianity. But through clever creativity, unbridled invention and ingenious improvisation this clash is turned into a profane celebration with spiritual overtones.
Mr. Schwarz-Bart through his liquid glissandos that dapple bluesy phrases and spiritual intercessions has created a new language between tenor saxophone and trumpet. And for that Mr. Charles seems to be in the right place at the right time. Mr. Charles is himself highly spiritual and these bedfellows are pre-eminently disposed to making music that is complex in its proverbial imagery of Voodoo and the moveable metaphor of jazz. This is beautifully expressed in “Kouzon” and “Bande” as well as in “Blues Jon Jon”; as well as in the exquisite and dancing “Kontredans,” “Je Vous Aime Kongo” and “Legba Nan Baye”. The beauty of this music is one of those rare occurrences that come when musicians are truly inspired and are falling with their instruments, through a time warp. It happened once when Chucho Valdés discovered his epiphany and expressed it through Briyumba Palo Congo (Blue Note, 1999( and then again with Roberto Fonseca, who had his own epiphany and expressed it through “Yo” (Harmonia Mundi/Jazz Village-Montuno Producionnes, 2013). This extraordinary benediction from Voodoo is Jacques Schwarz-Bart’s epiphany and it is going to remain in the mind’s mind for a long time indeed.
Track List: Kouzin; Bande; Blues Jon Jon; Bade Zile; Night; Kontredans; Sept Fe; Vaudou Zepole; Je Vous Aime Kongo; Legba Nan Baye.
Personnel: Jacques Schwarz: tenor saxophone; Erol Josue: lead vocals (1, 2, 9); Ronza Zila: lead vocals (4, 8, 9); Stephanie McKay: lead vocals (6); Etienne Charles: trumpet (1 – 9); Milan Milanovic: piano (1 – 4, 7 – 9); Ben Williams: upright bass (1 – 4, 7 – 9); Obed Calvaire: drums (1 – 4, 7 – 9); Gaston Jean-Baptiste “Bonga”: percussion (1 – 4, 7 – 9); Alex Tassel: flugelhorn (5, 6); Gregory Privat: piano (5, 6); Reggie Washington: electric bass (5, 6); Arnaud Dolmen: drums (5, 6); Claude Saturne: percussion (6).
Label: Motema Music| Release date: February 2014
Website: brotherjacques.com | Buy music on:
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Jacques Schwarz-Bart was born of mixed races. His early experience as a man taught him that one can be a harmonious receptacle for several cultures, as long as each one is given its value and importance. After graduating from the French School of Government (Sciences Po Paris), Jacques has been working for the French Senate. While his first instrument is the Gwoka Drums from Guadeloupe – his native country, he discovers the tenor saxophone at age 24, and three years later, quits his career to go and study at the Berklee College of music.
After playing alongside such luminaries as Roy Hargrove, Danilo Perez, Ari Hoenig, Meshell n’Degeocello, D’angelo or Chucho Valdes, Jacques finally decides to follow his own vision as a band leader. He then leaves Roy Hargrove’s band in 2005 and finalizes his Gwoka Jazz Project, gathering some faithful and talented musicians such as Sonny Troupé, Olivier Juste or Milan Milanovic. Jacques and his Gwoka Project record two albums for Universal, “Soné Ka La” and “Abyss”, which have built his current career as an internationally acclaimed jazz band leader.
In 2010, he releases “Rise Above”, which revives his long lasting collaboration with singer – and spouse – Stephanie McKay. As Bob Davis puts it: “This album sounds like what might have happened if John Coltrane and Minnie Ripperton were to make an album together”.
More recently, Jacques, whose fertile brain seems to never rest, has launched three new projects, ranging from straight jazz to Caribbean roots music. The first one is a free trio with guitar, drums and saxophone. The absence of bass, while freeing the music from the ground, provides an aerial –almost ethereal – quality to the music. The wide open space becomes a formidable launching pad for the multi-dimensional playing of Gilad Hekselman and Obed Calvaire.
During these last years, Jacques had the opportunity to play with drummer Leon Parker, pianist Baptiste Trotignon and bassist Thomas Bramerie. From these encounters, a Quartet came up. The music takes off effortlessly. The players soar with unpredictable but purposeful creativity, while showing an unbreakable sense of unity. All the members of the band contribute in the writing and direction of the music. After playing extensively with Baptiste Trotignon, Thomas Bramerie and Hans van Oosterhout over the course of the last four years, Jacques decided to document their very special chemistry on CD. This quartet recording is entitled “The Art of Dreaming”. It came out in Europe in February 2012 and in the USA in September 2012. It has been received everywhere with critical acclaim.
Last but not least, Jacques has created a project that synergizes modern jazz and ritual voodoo music from Haiti. It features two Voodoo priests: the great singer Errol Josué, and percussionist Gaston Bonga, as well as some of the finest Jazz musicians: Etienne Charles, Obed Calvaire, Luques Cutis, and Milan Milanovic. While remaining a jazz project, the music is lifted by the powerful spirituality of voodoo music. Band members and audience seem to be sailing together on a sea of light. The music has been presented as the headliner for the opening day of the famous Banlieues Bleues festival on March 11th, 2011 in Paris. Jacques then has toured with this project, including concerts in Morocco (Essaouria Festival), France (la Rochelle), Guadeloupe (IloJazz), and more to come.