This is an ambitious project. Bassist Matt Geraghty, reeds and winds player Zé Luis Oliveira together with documentary filmmaker Laura Newman plan an ambitious project – Trade Winds, which when completed, will take them through several countries in Latin America as well as through Brasil, and through West Africa. Once completed this is likely to be the most ambitious musical project of its kind to be undertaken by three itinerant artists. Cuban projects have already been successfully accomplished by Canadian, Jane Bunnett and her husband Larry Cramer, who quietly continue to raise the roof with each new project they carry out. They were followed by Ry Cooder and Wim Wenders, who made the Buena Vista Social Club a household name worldwide. However Matt Geraghty is attempting something never attempted before.
The first leg of their journey, Trade Winds: Cuba – a 21-day sojourn during which the group recorded 21 songs with local musicians including the legendary Cuban musician, Don Pancho Terry, the Cuban Rap star, Telmary, Roberto Carcassés son of the renowned trumpet player and singer, Bobby Carcassés. One completed the list of musicians swelled to a total of 100. The numbers, however, do not tell the whole story. It is the warmth of the recording, the apparent spiritual unity between the musicians that has been captured here that is its most significant achievement. Matt Geraghty has managed to build something unusual, a set of songs that have been partially composed and partially improvised, which together run like an intricate railway system linking the musical cultures of Africa, the Caribbean and America in such a way that it seems the boundaries separating them never really existed in the first place.
Geraghty’s bass and Oliveira’s horns weave in and out of Cuban traditional rhythms, the percussion being the glue that holds it all together. Don Pancho Terry’s chekere and vocals on Passing the Torch and Havana Sky (Disc 1), and Telmary’s rap on Prende (Disc 2) are the high points of the package, and every once and awhile the music traverses through jazz, hip-hop and other rhythms but the movement is without fuss and seems completely osmotic and organic. Bill Laswell’s Imaginary Cuba comes to mind. The concept of that recording probably pre-dates Geraghty’s recording but the latter bassist’s melding of this music is not far behind. It is as ferocious as Laswell’s and roars with a similar fire as that of the great bassist’s. Geraghty’s own chops are impeccable. His is a virtuoso in his own right. I do miss the acoustic bass, which is so much a part of the musical landscape of Cuban music, especially on the music derived from Cuban dance forms – son, danzón, and bolero, and so on – but not that much so as to feel differently about Geraghty’s monumental effort. Zé Luis Oliveira’s horn playing is probably more exploratory, but no less impeccable.
This package does not contain the visual component of the project, which ought to have been featured somewhere – just as it was on the Ninety Miles Project (with Stefon Harris, Christian Scott, David Sanchéz, together with Harold López-Nussa, Rember Duharte and others), which CD package included a video. Perhaps the film will be packaged and sold separately as was Ry Cooder’s and Wim Wenders, and Jane Bunnett’s and Larry Cramer’s Spirits of Havana. Time will tell. But for now we must make do with these extraordinary musical treasures of the two discs.
Track List: Disc 1: Breaking Barriers; Direct Hit; In the Temple; Cactus Flower; Yank Tank; Mis Dudas; Planet Fluto; Passing the Torch; Port of Hope; Havana Sky; The New Now. Disc 2: July Snow; Caribbean Roots; Common Currency; Building Bridges; Best of the Best; Cracking the Code; Just Like That; Prende; Dry Storm; Havana Suite.
Personnel: Matt Geraghty: bass; Zé Luis Oliveira: saxophones, flute; Laura Newman: cinematography, with guest musicians including Don Pancho Terry; Lydia Terry; Chicoy; Ramses Rodriguez; Telmary; Roberto Carcassés; Peruchín; Rumba Morena, Roberto Luna, Julito Padrón, Emilio Morales, Interactivo, together making up a cast of 100 musicians.