May 22, 2024

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CD review: Santi Debriano & Arkestra Bembe – Ashanti 2022: Video, CD cover

The new, eighth in a row and first for the Jojo Records label, the album of US-raised but Panama-born bassist Santi Debriano is in many ways thematically close to his work Flash of the Spirit (2021), which we wrote about in due time.

Here, as there, Debriano explores the African cultural roots of music, as evidenced by the title of the album – Ashanti, but it was created in different circumstances, and therefore on the cover next to his name we also see the inscription “Arkestra Bembe”.

In the language of the African Yoruba people, bembé means a kind of celebration where they drink, eat, listen to music and dance. During the days of the lockdown, Debriano gathered musician friends in the basement of his house on Staten Island and arranged a kind of jam sessions combined with friendly gatherings. Such bembé he held almost every week. At first, as the musician himself recalls, they were somewhat chaotic, but gradually he began to show his colleagues his new pieces and arrangements. This is how the Ashanti album was born.

Arkestra Bembe’s large international team is united by the fact that everyone here is New Yorker. Of the participants in the recording of the Flash of the Spirit album, we see here the famous flutist Andrea Brachfeld, all the other faces are new to me. Already in the opening piece Angel Heart, which Debriano dedicated to his wife, there is an interesting combination of the flamenco guitar sound from the Brazilian Adrian Alvorado and the Afro-Caribbean phrasing that Debriano himself demonstrates on bass.

The title piece Ashanti, as well as Imaginary Guinea and Imagined Nation, are quasi-African compositions characteristic of the ethnomusicologist Debriano. In the Haitian voodoo cult, it is widely believed that the souls of the dead fly across the Atlantic to their old homeland in Guinea and find peace there. Ray Skro on baritone saxophone illustrates this belief with an inspirational solo on baritone saxophone.

And here is another piece by Debriano, Basilar, already performed in Latin American rhythms, and Andrea Brachfeld’s flute is very good here. The album program included not only Debriano’s own compositions. Scro composed the composition Mr. Monk, dedicated to the memory of two jazz giants – Monk and Mingus, Mingus’s Portrait, arranged by Santi Deriano, is also a memory of the great bassist and his wife Sue, for whom this composition was written. The musicians also play Bobby Hutcherson’s Till Then, where the pianist Mamiko Watanabe is good. As you can see, the album is very diverse, and the class of performers is such that you won’t have to regret the time spent listening to Ashanti.

1 Angel Heart 05:42
2 Ashanti 08:23
3 Imaginary Guinea 08:22
4 Imagined Nation 05:54
5 Till Then 04:36
6 Spunky 05:15
7 Arkestra Boogaloo 06:28
8 Basilar 05:46
9 Mr Monk 06:56
10 Portrait 02:29

Santi Debriano / Bass
Andrea Brachfeld / Flute
TK Blue / Alto Sax
Tommy Morimoto / Tenor Sax
Ray Scro / Baritone Sax
Emil Turner / Trumpet
Adrian Alvarado / Guitar
Mamiko Watanabe / Piano
Robby Ameen / Drums

Jojo Records

New CD – 2022 – Buy from here

Santi Debriano and Arkestra Bembe Album Cover .jpg

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