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Buyu and Karl Joseph KariJazz: In a few words, can you introduce Buyu to KariJazz listeners?

Buyu: My name is Alix Ambroise, Jr. The name Buyu was given to me by my grandmother when I was very young. I come from a family whose tradition is deeply rooted into the arts. I grew up listening to both classical and popular music. I heard my dad playing the piano, accordion, and harmonica around the house where we lived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. That always brought joy and excitement in me. My cousin Paula Ambroise, also a well-trained classical pianist living in the same complex where the entire family lived, used to enthrall me as well. I used to listen attentively while she practiced her piano. I was startled by her discipline, talent, virtuosity, and dedication. She left an early musical impression in me. For the first time, I remember, the thought of me one day playing crossed my mind.

It was not until I turned fifteen that I formally began playing music, while attending George Wingate H.S. in Brooklyn, N.Y. I first started on the flute, and then switched to the alto saxophone. The saxophone was the leading instrument in the Haitian bands that were surfacing during this period. I heard Tony Moise, the sax player with Shleu-Shleu, and fell in love with the horn. I wanted to mimic every breath he took on his instrument, but I didn't have a mentor to teach me the phrasings and techniques of playing konpa music. Later on, I began to listen and acquainting myself with more Haitian jazz oriented sax players like Lionel Volel (Ibo Combo), Edgar Depestre (N.Y. Ibo Combo/Caribbean Sextet), and Guy Durosier.

Upon graduating high school, I somewhat abandoned the saxophone or music altogether. I didn't want to pursue a career nor found any interest beyond the high school jazz band experience, of which I was part during my junior and senior years there.

Two years after H.S. graduation, I purchased my first tenor saxophone. It was during that time I met Ernst Marcelin, an old colleague from high school who was experimenting with jazz music on the piano. We enthusiastically decided on collaborating by pursuing a common goal - that of learning jazz music and a study of the Afro Haitian musical heritage. Thereafter, I committed myself deeper into studying music. We attended many workshops, concerts, jam sessions, and kept close contacts with many jazz musicians in the NYC area.

I joined the Jazz Mobile Program in Harlem, where I studied jazz composition, harmony, theory, and improvisation with Frank Foster (Count Basie Orchestra) and Jimmy Owens. I also studied music at City College under the guidance of John Lewis (Modern Jazz Quartet).

In the 1980's Ernst Marcelin and I cooperated in founding two bands: Ayibobo in the early 80's and Freefall in the late 80's. Both groups were jazz combos which fused musical elements of traditional Haitian folklore.

By the mid to late 1980s, I also joined the group Ayizan, led by Alix Tit Pascal. I traveled and recorded with the group.

By the early 1990's, I met Edy Brisseaux, a trumpet player (Caribbean Sextet); Lionel Oriol, bassist in earlier times with Ibo Combo; lead vocalist Gary French (Pepe Bayard and Tropical Sextet), Joel Theodore, vocalist once with Bossa Combo, to found a konpa group in New York. The band, Metrosonik, became very popular but did not record professionally.

After a four year-stay with Metrosonik, I went into a hiatus. I attended school to become an educator. I stopped playing music completely. It was not until a few years later that my cousin Patrick Plantin, rescued me and asked me to get my horn out of the closet and get my chops together. He wanted me to perform again, but in the jazz tradition. Irresistibly, I then formed The Alix Ambroise Quartet, with Eric Lemon, a bassist and colleague from school, who, too, encouraged me to pursue music.

In 2004, I was approached by Patrick Plantin, Ader Leroy, and Alan Epstein who proposed that I record my music. The opportunity was instantaneously welcome. It was a dream comes true. Blues In Red, which is the name of the project, was born.

KariJazz: Another album after two years? Why now? Is it difficult to put together such complex projects?

Buyu: This idea of this new album (CD) Marasa was conceived as early as the summer of 2005. The seeds of this project were always germinating and growing. I actually wanted to begin recording right away. However, it was wise to wait for some time, by planning ahead, before releasing this new one. Sometime, the market dictates the events and the calendar. In a marketplace that is very narrow and highly competitive, one would rather nurture the project until it reaches maturity; then it can be published. There are so many variables to settle before an artist decides as to when to release his/her art to the public.

It is always a complex experience in putting together any recording project, especially if you are a meticulous worker. Once you have your musicians on board who are able to understand the foundation and direction of the project, the complexity of your project is already 90% done. The remainder is much unproblematic.

With the myriad of new Haitian jazz releases in 2006 (Omicil, Policard, Widmaier, Theodat), this CD, I hope, will shed a fresh voice in the directions that the collective of Haitian jazz artists are scrupulously pursuing in promoting this new genre of music in our community and beyond.

KariJazz: Marasa, this is a very suggestive title. Can you succinctly talk about this choice?

Buyu: Marasa means twins in Haitian Creole. It also means duality. In traditional Haitian culture, marasa symbolizes abundance. This title was inspired as result of a long introspection as an immigrant living in North America. I see myself living in two separate worlds co-existing harmoniously in two cultures. On the one hand, is the physical self - the immigrant living in North America - ; the other, my spiritual world, which Haiti has left its indelible mark on my DNA. I greatly retained, cultivated, and cherished all the fruitful Haitian traditions passed on to me by my family and the Haitian society at large. Living here in the United States for so many years has also shaped my views. This marasa is made evident through my music which synthesizes both cultures. In sum, I guess it reflects the Haitian-American phenomenon of being essentially multicultural.

KariJazz: Blues in Red is a very poetic name for a band. Is it a quest or an affirmation of identity?

Buyu: It's both. First, it is a quest in searching for the common tongue left by our elders as a heritage, which I believe, is essential in continuously defining and re-defining us, as a people, and a culture. The first CD, Blues In Red, begins with a tribute to my ancestors with a rendition of the Dessalinienne, and ends with Konviksyon, a piece written by Manno Charlemagne, depicting the resilience and hope of the Haitian people, in spite of their political suffering and misery. Second, Blues In Red is also the color of Haiti's flag (blue and red). This CD was a tribute to Haiti's bicentennial, in 2004. Ever since the artist Wyclef Jean appeared on TV draped in the Haitian flag, at a music award ceremony, The Haitian colors have increasingly become more visible as the icon used to identify ourselves in the Diasporas.

KariJazz: What is the purpose of revisiting our traditional standards?

Buyu: I think it is essential for Haitian artists (but not necessarily the rule), no matter where they are in this world, to show Haiti through their art, even if it is done as a sidebar reference. There is so much wealth in our culture that yet remains untapped; (especially in the realm of music and dance). The more Haitian artists record the traditional songs, the more likely that these songs will become standards to be emulated.

KariJazz: Where do you see yourself with that album that you just released?

Buyu: There is so much I'd like to do with music. I have other projects in mind for the future. For now, I am very happy to release my second CD, Marasa. It is an outgrowth from the first CD (Blues In Red). I am hoping that people would have a chance at listening, appreciating and critiquing this second collection of songs that I have just released.

KariJazz: We at KariJazz fell in love with this rhythmic section, the dazzling horn arrangements and the endless flows of this very skillful pianist. Can you talk about the band briefly?

Buyu: Thank you for your kind words. The band is, in essence, a sextet format. Sometimes the band is augmented to a septet or an octet for concert performance by adding a trombone, an additional percussionist, or both. The musicians I work with on this CD are assiduously committed to their crafts. I have been collaborating with Lou Rainone, a jazz pianist whom I met in 2001 while working together in a group that was formed in the aftermath of 9/11. He has been an active and central member of my group since 2005. He is a very skillful pianist. I have been fortunate to work with some of the best pianists in the business. Frederic Las Fargeas, who recorded with me in the first CD, is another outstanding musician who also captured the essence of my music, and was one of the musical architects working close with me. The trumpeter is a young Haitian living in N.Y. His name is Gil Defay. He is a very talented musician, who also has joined the band in 2005. He is a great sideman. The bassist is Paul Beaudry. He is originally from San Francisco and a product of the Berklee School of Music. He has been with the band since 2004. He is an exceptional inventive player with qualities that are multi-dimensional. He is also a fine percussionist. In this project, he often approaches the bass as a percussive instrument. James Tiga Jean-Baptiste, a young drummer, whose specialty is Haitian rhythms, is one of the most talented young musicians I have worked with recently. He drives the band with such pulsating beat, that at times one wonders how many hands does he possess. Eliazer Berrios, who is from Puerto Rico, is the youngest member and latest addition in our group. He has joined the band during the fall of 2005. He is a very dynamic musician who has studied drumming with Haitian percussionists here in N.Y. Sean Phekoo, another drummer who was an invited guest on this new CD.

The combination of these musicians makes for a dynamic rhythm section, which is the quintessential effervescing force that drives the band.

KariJazz: On this CD you have some compositions from Ansy Dérose, Albert Chancy, Bethova Obas, a superb version of "Dilere" and a subliminal take of Wayne Shorter's footprints. Can we say that Buyu have found the magic formula?

Buyu: I don't know if there is a winning "magic formula" in music. I tend to think that if you claim that you found this "formula that works", the tendency would then be for the artist to stop going beyond the endless possibilities which are further than the horizon. To me, music is an infinite experience. Just make sure that you do it with all humbleness, an open heart, and with intellectual probity.

KariJazz: Thanks for your time. KariJazz is proud to promote the wonderful musician you are. Thanks to you and to Blues in Red for populating our dreams with such colorful sounds.

Buyu: On behalf of the Blues In Red musicians, I graciously thank you for giving me this opportunity to express myself in your program.

December 6, 2006

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