Summit Records, April 2010
Released internationally on April 13, 2010, Riyel’s first album is an overview of the eclectic aspect of the Haitian modern musical culture. The interactions between Haitian musicians and their peers from United States since the seventies opened new avenues and opportunities to countless musical creations. Riyel’s album is an expression of the diversity existing in the rich Haitian cultural heritage. Although projects of that sort already existed (“Kilti Chòk”, “Tanbou Nan Lakou Brooklyn”) the content is quite new. On this album, colors and nuances spin around the search of an original voicing with a connection to “Konpa” or “rasin” music and an intimate relation with Jazz music. Improvisation is, indeed, the core of the concept and players are given room to make their statements… And they really use that breathing space to transform this new album into an innovative collection of jewels that will delight Jazz aficionados.
The album results from a joint effort between three musicians and friends - Mentone, Alabama-based trumpeter Ken Watters, trombonist/vocalist Andre Atkins of Brooklyn and Miami bass whiz Yves Abel, all well known in the Diaspora and in Haiti. These three musketeers, members of the Konpa-Funk group Tabou Combo, joined forces to venture into the rich avenues of our musical culture and to bring their own zest to deliver a unique concoction. This ten-track CD shows all types of influences from Kompa to Jazz with a brilliant and very original rendition of Joe Henderson’s "Black Narcissus" based on a variant of the “yanvalou/mayi” rhythms.
To help put their ideas into reality, they picked among the best musicians. The horns section lead by Watters, with dazzling and stunning arrangements, brings us reminiscence of Magnum Band’s winds of the late seventies. Guitarists Ralph Conde, Dener Seide and Dadou Pasquet (1) play at their best. Seide (2) and Condé (3) are really the revelations of this CD because of the versatility of their playing. They know how to accommodate their voicing to a changing environment. Pianists Mushy Widmaier and Abel Pabon bring theirs talents on many pieces. Widmaier shows versatility by being sometimes percussive (Four Sticks) or by playing melodic/harmonic lines that flow endlessly (Pathfinder). The band is backed up by a dynamic rhythmic section. Drummer Andrew Atkinson is surrounded by percussionists Frantz Thimothé and Reginald Petithomme, to name a few, who bring the “rasin” touch. At the core of this rhythmic section is Yves Abel, cofounder of the band. His contribution to this CD is huge in terms of support and direction. The whole iconoclast mixture of rhythms, groove and genres he has to manage, shows his talents and the perfect fit for this type of concept.
The last track (Aguanile) is a wink to Fania All Stars. This famous band of the seventies and Cuban group Irakere are to be considered as the pioneers of Latin Jazz. The rendition of this Hector Lavoe’s composition brings us reminiscences of Exile One, another great band which was a catalyst in the big changes that affected the mini-jazz in Haiti in the late seventies. We have been in this business for a few years and we know how hard Kreyòl Jazz musicians are trying to survive because this music is not for everybody. And yet, here is a new band that embraces this difficult task of contributing to a genre not so popular. We are glad to see new additions to the Kreyòl Jazz repertoire. We want to commend these three musketeers, and the band as a whole, for this great project. Riyèl is an ultimate meeting at the crossroads to explore and to expand the limitless possibilities of our musicale heritage. Thumbs up!
-----Reviewed by Alphonse Piard, Jr (for KariJazz)
Hot Haitian Jazz and a Cool New Album