Having spent close to ten years in Oriente, in Eastern Cuba, a province that is made up of Las Tunas, Granma, Holguín, Guantánamo, and Santiago de Cuba where he spent most of his time there, Loz Speyer seems to have absorbed not only the provincial history but, more than anything else, the lessons of its cultural topography. Thus Mr Speyer has become steeped in the rhythms and emotions of tumba Francesa, changüi and other inflections of son. Best of all, Mr Speyer has been incontrovertibly affected by the spiritual and secular imperatives of what may be called conga santiaguera en el Oriente de Cuba. Naturally, he pours these influences out into his music with other members of the iconic ensemble Time Zone.
Mr Speyer may not be alone in becoming mesmerised by the heady rhythms and colourful harmonies of Afro-Cuban music. He has, however, made its voicing, textures, colours and vital rhythmic heartbeat all his own in his compositions and performance. Though the music is a clearly crafted enterprise, the vivid elements of the Cuban comparsa, of the hypnotic Lucumi worship ceremonies and the nocturnal descargas are all quite organically evoked in the songs presented here. Everywhere, the music is anchored in the rumble of Maurizio Ravalico’s congas, Dave Manington’s bass and Andy Ball’s drums, soaring melodies are met with ecstatic countermelodies and harmonies from Martin Hathaway’s alto saxophone, bass clarinet, and Stuart Hall’s guitar.
If you are expecting to find what is (so inadequately) described as salsa then you may be in the wrong club. True, this music is vivid and it dances, but Mr Speyer’s music is also woven into the diaphanous fabric of Latin-Jazz, which is to say his music is artfully subsumed not simply by Afro-Cuban forms but also melded into the ethos of Jazz with vociferous trumpet and saxophone soli (eminently alive in “Stratosphere”, “Mood Swings” and – especially in the humours of “Checkpoint Charlie”) and the loud reports of the guitarist (again, on “Checkpoint Charlie”), and this helps him somehow bring to life two disparate worlds as far removed as Oriente is from the despicable and now-dismantled Wall in erstwhile East Berlin, and Britain, where he is based.
Like all of the preeminently written Blues music and music conceived in the secret of conga and batá codes (without a batá drum in sight of the studio, in this case) Mr Speyer has, of course connected all the proverbial dots, drawing a firm line between history’s and music’s secrets. He has also revealed that he is more than simply a trumpeter blowing a wonderfully powerful horn, but a socially conscious artist making a somewhat angular statement. All of the above is painted on an exquisite musical canvas, which is most vividly and memorably depicted on “Guarapachanguero” and “Dalston Carnival”, a full-on comparsa.
You would be hard-pressed to find music so vibrant and viscerally energetic than the eight pieces on Clave Sin Embargo; and it all comes from an unexpected, yet truly welcome source – Loz Speyer’s Time Zone.
Track list – 1: Stratosphere; 2: Mood Swings; 3: Lost at Sea; 4: Full Circle; 5: Checkpoint Charlie; 6: Guarapachanguero; 7: Crossing the Line; 8: Dalston Carnival
Personnel – Loz Speyer: trumpet and flugelhorn; Martin Hathaway: alto saxophone and bass clarinet; Stuart Hall: guitar; Dave Manington: contrabass; Maurizio Ravalico: congas; Andy Ball: drums
Released – 2019
Label – Spherical Records (SPR005)
Runtime – 1:01:17