The marketing sheet that promotes The One Who Makes You Happy by the Julian Gerstin Sextet makes mention of the fact that the music on the disc had “drums from Martinique and Cuba” mingling “with rhythms of Turkey and Bulgaria in the jazz world of Julian Gerstin. In digging deeper the listener should not be surprised to find that the source of it all is ultimately Africa, where the language of music – indeed the language of all art – really began, taking shape as it metamorphosed over many migrations, and many generations over the ages. And yet continental drifting notwithstanding, it is all coming together again as musicians like Gestrin blur borders – artificial as they are – to distill music down to its one timeless source again.
Justifiably so, then, Mr Gerstin bestows up on his sextet sojourn the title it so richly deserves, calling it The One Who Makes You Happy and yet this character is (also justifiably so) left to imagination of the listener to personify. Actually the shape-shifting music can beguile even the most canny listener and that would, of course, be par for the course because in the shamanistic nature of the music from “Iroko Hop” through “Kaiman Ka Modé” to “Dig It Deeper”. Through it all Julian Gerstin’s sextet comparsa weaves in and out of the elements of music – its melody and harmony – employing all the polyrhythmic glory of African forms heard today all across the universe, wherever music is played and enjoyed. Listen to the only vocal track on the disc, “Apprendiendo Como Amar” with its glorious chorus that includes Philip Pasmanick, for example.
The tragicomic “Polar Bear Meltdown” is brought to life, for instance, in the brittle opening bar rhythms, which in time, towards the middle of the piece – during the soloing instrumentalists’ sections – becomes more deliberately dark and molten as if unfolding in the colossal, burbling indigo-blue flow. A short time later “I Remember It Differently” increases in tempo and volume as the music gathers momentum reaching its apogee in the solo on tanbou bèlè by Julian Gerstin. The wistful beauty of “The One Who Makes You Happy” could easily be imagined as a musical personification of the proverbial African Madonna, with its gently lilting rhythm and its existence in an endlessly tender melody, beautifully explored by Anna Patton on her clarinet.
It is in the deep woody tones of Miss Patton’s clarinet, together with the cold burn of Don Anderson’s trumpet and flugelhorn that the bittersweet melodies – whether unfolding in the major or the minor – get their most spectacular reading with just the right mix of fire and water (lilting lullaby mixed in with a rebel yell, that is). This is, of course, exquisitely offset by the clatter of exploding percussion from Gerstin, Jesús González, Juan Stable Perez “Pescao”, Ricky Aguilar and Ben James. Meanwhile Wes Brown’s spectacularly intoned contrabass brings gravitas to everything (as evidenced on “Mongo’s Lament”) as Eugene Uman’s piano and keyboard provide the necessary glue to hold it all together on this disc that is superbly engineered by Gary Henry and Matt Hall (and Will Chason) to audiophile standards.
Track List: 1: Iroko Hop; 2: Polar Bear Meltdown; 3: I Remember It Differently; 4: The One Who Makes You Happy; 5: Kaiman Ka Modé; 6: Child Left Behind; 7: Apprendiendo Como Amar; 8: The King Dreams of Flying; 9: Dig It Deeper; 10: Mongos Lament; 11: Love That Stumbles Across the Earth in Ecstasy.
Personnel: Anna Patton: clarinet; Don Anderson: trumpet & flugelhorn; Eugene Uman: piano & Kord keyboard; Wes Brown: bass; Ben James: drums; Justin Gerstin: tanbou bèlè, congas, tupan, percussion; Juan Stable Perez “Pescao”: lead vocal, clave & Chorus; Jesús González: tumba, quinto & chorus; Ricky Aguilar: paila & shekere; Philip Pasmanick: chorus.