On tour across North America, Europe and beyond with Antibalas, celebrating 20 years of making music together.
Putting aside for a moment the strangeness of being on a massive floating city and fraught politics of global capitalism inherent in pretty much everything we do, Jamcruise 16 was amazing and along with going to Cuba and Benin, probably the richest musical experiences of my life.
Five days, nights and morning of performing, listening, collaborating and creating with some of my most favorite and esteemed musicians, people I listened to and adored well before I ever imagined myself playing music: Maceo Parker, George Porter if the Meters, Steel Pulse, John Scofield, to make just a few.
I am truly grateful to have been a part of this and in awe of the tremendous amount of work it took to put together such a magical event. It was transformational and I want to see this happen again and that far more people- musicians and fans can experience this.
I am fascinated by the concept of modifying the concept of a cruise ship into something more sustainable. How could it run with a zero carbon footprint, with equitable labor practices, cooperative ownership, healthier connections with the people in the different port cities to build systems which promote economic self determination and cultural understanding and appreciation.
The cruise ships are sophisticated, well oiled machines and I wonder how much of this is possible only because of all the social and environmental costs and externalities that are hidden from us. Having several friends from Nicaragua who have spent decades working on and off ship, it is a mixed bag. It does offer new possibilities, relationships and income not possible at home. At the same time, the work is intense and demanding and full of assaults to ones dignity. And the price of being separated from ones family and community for periods of nine months at a time over several years.
All that to say that in addition to my gratitude to the people who organized the event, I am even deeper indebted to the people on the ship grinding tirelessly to create a space for other people to experience such an intensely joyful event. Til next time.
On March 30, Daptone Records will release the new album by Orquesta Akokán. It is among my favorite albums of the past few years--so much flavor, amazing arrangements and creative orchestration. Read more about them here at NPR program alt.Latino.
I was honored to have been asked to write the liner notes for the, which I'm including here:
Listening to the new LP by Orquesta Akokán, you can't help but feel the spirits of Cuba's musical giants radiating from the speakers. But honoring and caring for these spirits is not easy work, nor is it a task to be left solely to one generation. It is a collaboration of young and old; The elders know the traditions, the gestures, the incantations, but it is the younger generation that have the duty to learn, the strength to carry on, and the fire and soul to make new songs for new spirits.
In November of 2016, Michael Eckroth traveled to the hallowed Areito studios in Centro Habana with a stack of charts tucked under his arm. Arriving in the cavernous wood-paneled live room, he took stock of the players assembled by producer Jacob Plasse: a dozen or so of Cuba’s most ferocious and pedigreed wind and rhythm players from storied groups including Irakere and Los Van Van, the sensational veteran vocalist José “Pepito” Gómez, and a handful of seasoned young New York Latin music freaks. These musicians would transform his charts into the living, breathing document you’re holding in your hands.
An arpeggio tumbles sweetly down the keys of the piano, and the set bursts forth en masse with exclamatory trumpet blasts, introducing saxophones that immediately establish themselves as the center of a rhythm section. The arrangements carry the exquisite beauty, pathos, and playfulness of the renowned dance orchestras of the 1940s and 1950s who had recorded in this very room, evoking the ghosts of Arsenio Rodriguez, Perez Prado, and Beny Moré. And the robust, time-tested musical architectures of son cubano and mambo are present and skillfully honored through all nine of these original compositions. The melodious tres cubano, the swinging tumbao of the congas, the tight blend of vocal harmonies — they’re all there. Yet there’s something unequivocally fresh — saxophone sections playing montunos where you’d imagine a piano, an angelic, swinging flute you’d expect in a charanga recording, sones — vocal improvisations that have the seasoned flow and cadence of mid 1970s “salsa dura” singers, and of course, the appearance of the inimitable César “Pupy” Pedroso on piano. Somehow this synthesis of musical grammar and compositional styles, of Havana and New York, of old and new, makes perfect sense.
Akokán is a Yoruba word used by Cubans to mean “from the heart” or “soul”, so it comes as no surprise that a recording like this would find its way back to Brooklyn’s Daptone Records. For nearly a generation, the venerable label has brought us soulful music in a myriad of styles, made in the present, but with all the craft and flavor of the classic recordings of the past. In doing so Daptone has enshrined both the genres it honors as well as artists creating new works in the universal canon of dance music. It’s a perfect kitchen from which to serve this captivating baile between old and new — una sopa levantamuertos (soup to raise the dead), prepared with rhythm, with care, and above all, con akokán.
-Martín Perna, Antibalas
Antibalas announces release of 6th studio album, 2017-2018 tour dates.
I was blessed with the role of musical director (and flutist/baritone saxophonist) for this show at Carnegie Hall last Monday, putting together charts and arrangements for Antibalas, the ace house band for 18 of the 22 songs performed onstage that evening, among them:
- Living Colour "Rock Steady"
- Kenny Loggins "Until you come back to me"
- Melissa Etheridge "I Never Loved a Man"
- Ceelo Green "The Night Time is the Right Time"
- Taj Mahal and Deva Mahal "Chain of Fools"
- Ledisi "Daydreaming"
- Ruthie Foster "Natural Woman"
- Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave) "Don't Play That Song"
- Don Bryant (Hi Records songwriter/singer) "Drown in My Own Tears"
- Bettye Lavette "Ain't No Way
- G-Love "Think"
- Todd Rundgren "Since You've Been Gone"
- Sarah Dash (of Labelle) "Dr. Feelgood"
- Naomi Shelton "A Change is Gonna Come"
- Little Kids Rock "Respect"
- Rodney Crowell "The Weight"
- Antibalas "Who's Zoomin' Who"
- Full ensemble with Living Colour: "Respect" (Reprise
Here are some of photos collected from the roving eyes of the Internet.
A family portrait from backstage at @carnegiehall last night. @antibalas @livingcolourofficial @saunwillshine @coldiehawn @ttimmyjames @rajakassis @coreyglover @vurnt22 @willcalhoundrum @amayo66 @reinaldodgsus @kevinraczkaa @systemdialingrecords @stuartbogie @martinperna @kingmarcoos #arethafranklin #carnegiehall #antibalas #livingcolour #anticolor Not pictured: @willrast @morganjprice
Not just one of the greats, Aretha is The Great!! “The Queen of Soul wasn’t in attendance, but Aretha Franklin would have certainly been thrilled by the musical tribute paid her at Carnegie Hall on Monday night (March 6). Featuring a roster of estimable musicians performing songs recorded by the 74-year-old singer, who has recently announced her upcoming retirement, The Music of Aretha Franklin shook the rafters of the venerable auditorium.” - Billboard 📷 by Bobby Bank/WireImage ・ ・ #ArethaFranklin #QueenOfSoul #CarnegieHall #TheMusicOfArethaFranklin #Benefit #Charity #SarahDash #RodneyCrowell #CeeLoGreen #MelissaEtheridge #CoreyGlover #LivingColour #NYC #Soul #Legend #Respect #NaturalWoman #Antibalas #Gospel #RandB #SamMoore #NaomiShelton #TajMahal #BettyeLaVette #Ledisi #RhiannonGiddens #RuthieFoster #SweetRelief #MusicHeals
#anighttoremember #tribute #arethafranklin #carnegiehall #allenstone #antibalas #martinperna #bettyelavette #ceelogreen #donbryant #glove #kennyloggins #ledisi #livingcolour #melissaetheridge #naomishelton #richardthompson #rhiannongiddens #ronpope #ruthiefoster #sammoore #sarahdash #tajmahal #devamahal #toddrundgren
I don't know who decided I deserved these seats. Amazing celebration of Aretha Franklin. Among the people on stage: Bettye LaVette, @melissa_etheridge, @ceelogreen, Sam Moore, @livingcolourofficial, @antibalas, @thekennyloggins, @allenstone, and Taj Mahal #musicofarethafranklin #carnegiehall #musiceducationmatters