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Smokin' at Smoke with Buyu Ambroise
A Sound Conversation

Date posted: November 29, 2007 - 10:00 AM

Blues In Red: A Sound Conversation – NEW YORK – Thursday, Nov. 29th, 2007: As the Haitian proverb goes, "Pa genyen lafimen san dife" (translation: "There is no smoke without fire"). This may very well be the best way to describe the atmosphere at Smoke Jazz & Supper Club in New York City this past Wednesday. Located in the Upper West Side, Smoke regularly features such Jazz artists as: Eric Alexander, Vincent Herring, Steve Turre, George Coleman and the like. This time, Freddie Bryant and co-owner Frank Christopher invited saxophonist Buyu Ambroise and the Blues In Red Band to take part in their newly inaugurated jazz series entitled "World Jazz Wednesdays." Buyu Ambroise and the Blues In Red Band delivered a scorching performance, leaving the audience awestruck.

Even though it was the middle of the week, and nearby restaurants were nearly empty, there was standing room only at the club. As early as a half-hour before show time, the place was packed. For us, we had to stand by the bar, but the effort was well worth it. From the moment the lights dimmed to the waitresses handing us the check for our clams and wine, Buyu Ambroise and his Band delighted the audience with passion and creativity.

People familiar with Ambroise's albums "Blues in Red" and "Marasa" heard such pieces as Anonse, Minouch, Plezi Mizč, Café, and Marasa, as well as some of his newest compositions.

Café, played during the first set, sparked conversation. One jazz aficionado sitting next to us at the bar was so moved by the music, that he wondered why he hadn't heard the piece on the radio. A connoisseur of Buyu's music made reference to the liner notes of the CD "Marasa", saying that this music originally was inspired by Ansy Derose, who re-arranged an old slave song. This song was sung by escaping slaves depicting the "Drinking Gourd" constellation as their guide, leading them north to freedom from the plantations of the American South.

After hearing Naima, adapted from a John Coltrane composition, a jazz enthusiast, sitting in one of the rear booths, said that it was one of the best arrangements he had ever heard of that particular tune. Similar comments about Buyu's repertoire were heard at the Haitian Jazz Festival this past April in Miami, where Buyu performed his rendition of Footprints.In response to Footprints, Jazz Radio Host Stu Grant of Miami's Love 94 FM said "Where have I been? How come I had never heard of Buyu Ambroise?"

Blues in Red skillfully brewed popular Haitian rhythms and melodies fused with modern jazz in a style that is unique and creatively seductive. Paul Beaudry's bass lines resonated as if one were hearing the vaksin (the large cylindrical bamboo aerophone instrument used in Rara bands in Haiti) breathing life into the complex rhythmic syncopation of the two drummers, Markus Schwartz and Steeve Belvilus.

The fluid interplay between Markus and Steeve playing popular Haitian rhythms such as djuba, yanvallou, rabňday, and kata were masterfully handled. Each drummer's ability to conjure a variety of pitches were central to the cohesion of each tune.

Paul's percutient melodic phrasing throughout the performance spanned multiple octaves, opening new harmonic and rhythmic possibilities for improvisation for his fellow musicians. As the night aged, his percussive bass-playing approach intensified and energized the dynamics of the band, leaving the audience totally mesmerized. Both Buyu and Waldron explored alternative harmonic progressions of the melodies through their improvisation, reaching the stratospheric range of their instruments, and exhaling human-like wails leading the audience to a near trance-like state. Intermittent applauds could be heard during and after musician solos.

Lou Rainone, the pianist, a pivotal player of the band's rhythm section, added layers of melodic contours that were fueled with rich textured chords. This augmented the acoustic force of the band. Cascading cadenzas with his left hand and interweaving melodies with his right hand, Lou left his audience perplexed and wondering who was playing what sounded like a second piano. Lou's chromatic choice of chord-voicing and contrapuntal melodies consolidated the rhythm section, leading the band to endless cohesive harmonic and symmetric riffs. Between sets, a fellow musician observed that "Lou Rainone's mastery is evident; It is amazing how lightly he touches the piano keys, bringing forth such strong energy and passion in his accompaniment."

"Man... this music is reminiscent of Horace Silver! Buyu will definitely be back." said Frank Christopher, co-owner of Smoke Jazz & Supper Club.

The phrase that summarizes the whole evening was uttered by a patron as the evening came to an end, "Buyu's music is a very palatable, new flavor of jazz."

Over time, the music has matured in to a form that has attracted attention from an ever-growing audience. Called an "exciting new subgenre" by patrons and critics* alike, the performance was brilliant and riveting. Buyu has definitely found a deeper spiritual connection with his music and a passion for his craft.

It was definitely a pleasure to be part of this experience, and we look forward to the Band's upcoming shows. In fact, Buyu Ambroise and the Blues In Red Band will be performing on Saturday, December 15th 2007 at Solomon's Porch Café, 307 Stuyvesant Avenue (corner of Halsey Street), Brooklyn, NY 11233.

*One such critic was Ed Kopp of JAZZIZ Magazine (Feb. 2005).

November 29, 2007

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