BUYU AMBROISE - MARASA (2006) | Revisiting the past and reclaiming the Haitian/Creole
legacy in jazz
2006 - Here
are some phrases, one might think of, when it comes
to describe or put epithets on Alix "Buyu"
Ambroise's music: totally organic, unplugged, acoustic.
He just released (December 8, 2006) Marasa, his
second album, two years after the highly acclaimed
Blues in Red. With this new album, Buyu is entering
the mainstream jazz world and the listener will
figure out at once the evolution in the saxophonist's
music. The material on the first album was geared
toward a kind of affirmation of identity. Having
lived outside of Haiti since his prime childhood,
he probably felt compelled to go back to his roots
in a quest of this identity which always appears
so distant and elusive to longtime immigrants.
With this new album, this is still a journey toward
our roots but from a New Orleans culture standpoint.
Marasa is about going back to the city of Jelly
Roll Morton (1890-1941)(1)
or Ferdinand Joseph Lamothe in quest of these roots
which have played a major role in the early development
of jazz music. The title Marasa (Creole translation
of twins) purposely selected put in display the
idea of the existing duality in Jazz roots. Although
this music, as we know it today, has been developed
essentially in the United States of America, its
origin took roots partly in the rich and diverse
Creole tradition of Haiti (2).
History taught us that at the end of the 18th, beginning
of the 19th centuries, many masters, with their
slaves, ran away from Saint Domingue (Haiti) to
settle in Cuba and New Orleans: two main sources
of deep mutations in Jazz Music. The slaves introduced
the drums in New Orleans (native slaves were not
playing the instrument) and initiated this rich
musical tradition from which came Jelly Roll Morton.
This Creole of Haitian descent changed his name
for business purpose, because of the negative "frenchy"
connotation of Ferdinand Joseph Lamothe.
The album is comprise of 9 pieces and it carries
a New Orleans/Be Bop flavor with rich and dazzling
horn arrangements that bring scale and sustainability
to Buyu's music. His performance sparkles with verve
and he gratifies our ears with colorful tones. His
"sweet aggressive sound" is original and
constitutes a great testimony of his maturity as
a musician and his total control over the instrument.
The rhythmic section is excellent with an intricate
combination of a regular jazz drums set and traditional
Haitian drums (polyrhythmic approach). The result
is a beautiful background that expresses this aforementioned
duality. Let us take a look at some of the pieces
on the album.
Priyè Ginen / Anonse is an incantation
used as prelude in voodoo ceremonies. When Buyu
heard this song some 15 years ago, he became infatuated
with it and decided that one day he would record
it. Here is the job. A five-minute piece that lays
on a kind of McCoy Tyner style background which
give the saxophonist ample latitude to explore the
Café is a composition made popular
by the former mini-jazz "Ibo Combo" in
the early 70's. The horn section on this piece is
great and this young trumpet player (Gil "XL"
Defay) adds a joyful note to the whole composition.
His coolness suggests some of Chet Baker's lines
in Concierto de Aranjuez (Jim Hall's Concierto 1975
CTI). It is amazing how Buyu's talent can twist
this Ansy Dérose composition and gives it
this Jazz-Club-ambiance. One has even the impression
of hearing glasses jingling and these repetitive
exclamations "Yeah, Yeah", so characteristic
of jazz fans' exitement.
Marasa: In Haitian Creole, Marasa means twins.
In voodoo, Marasa or Sacred Twins are symbolically
represented either by two or three entities. Two
symbolizes abundance. Three can mean overabundance.
Each "Nation" of divinities has its Marasa.
The composition reflects the artist internalizing,
adapting, synthesizing, and re-inventing across
two cultures- Haiti's and North America's. It is
a strong statement about this quest of identity
in the origins of jazz music. Bass player Paul Beaudry
is a fireball of enlightened precision and energy.
He is also a key player of the arrangement team
Dilere: Originated from the traditional Haitian
repertoire, this piece seems to inspire our jazz
virtuosos. After Thurgot Theodat, here is Buyu's
version of this catchy melody. James "Tiga"
Jean Baptiste's drum is omnipresent, strong and
fast. How many hands the heck he gets? The piece
flows brimming with two exquisite solos from Buyu
and Lou Raimone, a pianist who seems to have an
addictive taste for long, endless, colorful and
Footprints: This famous Wayne Shorter's composition
is revisited by lining a strong polyrhythmic background
with a very interesting dialog between the drums:
excellent expression of the duality mentioned above.
Buyu's performance exhibits a lot of energy. The
piano-drum-conga prelude on this piece is so elusive
and hard to describe. Music lovers will be delighted
by this preamble.
This album is about reclaiming the Creole legacy
in this music that has travelled throughout the
world and has been adopted by so many people (nations)
as a unique and original way of expression of their
culture. We have been deprived of so many of our
contributions to the well being of the so-called
civilized world. Today, it is refreshing to see
such efforts to reclaim this longtime lost legacy.
This is a stunning endeavor, embellished by breathless
solo statements which drive the ensemble forward
in a decisive and unpredictable way. Buyu's group
concept and enlightened leadership have drawn an
astonishing group of highly qualified players around
him. Last but not least, excellent job and thumbs
up on these stunning arrangements. KariJazz is proud
to introduce this new material from the creator
of Blues and Red. Under our criteria we strongly
feel that this album deserves the highest rate.
Monsieur Ambroise, Les haitiens vous doivent une
fière chandelle. Chapeau!
Composer/pianist Jelly Roll Morton was
the first significant jazz composer, stemming
from his travels in the early 1900s during
which he integrated gospel, blues, ragtime,
French, Hispanic and Caribbean influences
into a distinct style. Morton was a colorful
personality who brazenly claimed to have invented
jazz -- often revising music history, always
to his favor, through exaggerations and misinformation
he related to music historian/biographer Alan
Lomax. Nonetheless, early classics like "King
Porter Stomp" and "Wolverine Blues"
certainly validate that he played a major
role in the development of jazz.
To view the whole Downbeat article on Jelly
go to this link
(2) Peter Hanley, Jelly Roll Morton
:" An Essay in Genealogy"