Month: April 2017


Where Jazz and Hip Hop Meet…

For at least the past fifty years, the most important and exciting site of new fusions of music has been in Jazz. Perhaps this is owing to its roots in collective improvisation and musical play, or in Jazz’s consistent pursuit of innovative timbres, rhythms, and forms. Fusions with Latin music go back at least to Charles Mingus (Haitian Fight Song) and the innovations of Miles Davis in fusing Jazz with Rock (See his Bitches Brew) seem to have opened up the possibility of many others. In the past few years, a new fusion with rap and hip-hop has been showing us ways in which two African-American musical innovations can come together in a sort of musical dialogue.

The group “Sélébéyone” takes its name from a Wolof word, meaning “intersection” or a place between the borders where two entities may meet and transform into something entirely new.  That is exactly what happens in their music where the border of hip hop (rap) meets at the edges of jazz. They performed numbers from their recent self-titled album as part of the Ecstatic Music Festival at Merkin Hall on March 27.

January 5, 2016: Steve Lehman & Selebeyon to present New York Premiere and New Recording
Photo by Willie Davis

The group consists of musicians from the United States and Senegal. Steve Lehman and Maciek Lasserre on saxophones, Damion Reid on percussion, bass player Chris Tordini, keyboardist Carlos Homs, and two rappers, HPrizm and Gaston Bandimic.

Bandimic raps in Wolof, the indigenous language of Senegal, Gambia, and Mauritiana. Wolof, interestingly, is not a tonal language, which means that pitch difference does not convey meaning (unlike, say, Mandarin) thus the rhythmic rush of the language and Bandimic’s rapping may come naturally from the language itself. HPrizm, by contrast, offered slower, more resonating lines, often taking advantage of his two-microphone set up, in which one was set to a high reverb, extending his words in a long echoing resonance.

HPrizm has been active in the experimental hip hop scene for some time, especially with his project, the Antipop Consortium Collective.

Drummer Damion Reid is perhaps best known for his work with the Robert Glasper Trio, the inventive trio that won a Grammy for best R&B album with just such a collaboration between Jazz and Hip Hop. His is a cymbal-centered style, that relies less on big resonating toms or typical snares and more on the variety of metals in his kit. This makes some sense in the context of Sélébéyone for the group tends to rely on robust synthesized sounds for its lower register, laying down big electronic textures to fill out those sub-audible ranges. Reid’s cymbals float above this this bass, producing an astonishing variety of timbres and resonances.

The saxophones created thick constellations of sounds, with long arpeggiated gestures that defy harmonic analysis. Lasserre, on soprano, created sonic depth with swirling motions that moved his horn closer to and further from his microphone. The reverb applied to the instrument gave it even more warmth. Lehman’s alto sax playing is virtuosic and defies easy description. The harmonic density of his solos is breathtaking.

The overall effect of this group is electrifying. On the one hand, the music is mesmerizing, with its thick electronic foundation and eddies of saxophones above it all, with shimmering cymbals and brittle piano above it all. On the other hand, their songs are formal structures with breaks for rappers in two languages. The electronics often use recordings of people, not in English, as a starting point, and it would be interesting to know if the rappers were engaging in ideas presented in hat recorded material. To a non-African listener, the effect is one of general African evocation.

HPrizm, Gaston Bandimic, and Maciek Lasserre all practice Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam which, in Senegal, has coalesced in the Mouride Brotherhood, founded in 1883 by Amadou Bomba, to whose memory the group’s last song was dedicated.

The group has uploaded the first song, “Laamb” on Youtube :




My performance “in C”

After being in class and talking about a musical composition called “in C” it brought me all the way back when I was and my old school Queensborough Community College. The reason that this happen is because I perform this piece about three years ago and the experience was amazing. Is experience was one of the best that I have ever had because it was a new piece it was not a classical piece as I am used to play but it was a modern piece that has no measures no time signature no key signature although the piece is called “in C”. Musician was not the only performers we also had dancers moving all around the stage while we playing this amazing piece. I would like to write about the rehearsal, the instrumentation, how it sounded like, how we merge all together and my experience.


For the rehearsal we had to look for a spot anywhere in the Back area of the stage we were so much musicians that we needed to stand out of the stage. area of the stage and get familiar with everything around. In addition, instrumentation was very random we had one violins, one violas, 1 electric guitars, electric Bass, a piano which sustain the note C throughout the whole piece, a vibraphone, a 3 xylophone and 3 singer and a flute (me).


When we started rehearsing it was a little bit hard at the beginning because each person needs to start on a measure and play it until you feel you could go to the next measure. In addition, you listen to all the other musicians merging one by one and the peas sometimes playing the same notes as you and sometimes doing something completely different. When the dancer word dancing I felt that they was not moving according to the temple of how we were playing they were moving very free in the stage. This piece made me think all the fetus development. I felt this way because, everything started so smoothly and little by little different Rhythm patterns combined with different pitch starting to merge it’s like a development something that it’s growing and at the end it comes back as the beginning with the piano notifying that it has giving birth.


The way that we merge was so easily that you note and you know why you need to come in or when you need to change from a different Rhythm pitch pattern. They were Parts when we were performing that we were basically all of us play the same measure as an ostinato. In addition, throughout the whole piece the piano was marking the temple playing C all the way to the whole performance.
My experience in this performance was great because it was something new that I never experienced before something completely different in which you don’t need to have a conductor giving you the key to come in to play. Each one of us felt when it’s time to play and to switch the Rhythm pitch pattern and we went all through it very easy and smoothly.

please start on minute 21:47.

Brooklyn Youth Chorus’ ‘Black Mountain Songs’

The Brooklyn Youth Chorus’ sold out album release party for their debut album ‘Black Mountain Songs’ was very entertaining to watch.  The video was available on WQXR‘s website on Friday March 31st at 7:30 pm and was hosted by Helga Davis.  The Brooklyn Youth Chorus is made up of young children and the chamber ensemble accompanying them was made up of adults, and even one of the featured composers on the album was a part of it.  They performed at The Greene Space at WQXR, which is a reoccurring venue for them throughout the performing season.  Watching the video made me feel as if I was there in the audience being entertained in person by an amazing group of young children who are great at what they do.

The chorus performed many songs from the album and I have chosen to write about a few of them that spoke to me the most.  The first song that they performed showcased their talent but just enough to hook you in and to make you want to keep watching and listening to these talented children, and talented chamber ensemble.  For most of the song, there was only a piano playing lightly while the chorus sang.  This song was one of my favorites because it showed how talented everyone participating was and they sounded very professional.  This song was like dipping your toe into the water before fully submerging yourself in the pool of wonderful music that lay straight ahead waiting to hug your ears with wonderful sounds.

The second song performed was absolutely my favorite song.  It is called There is Sound and it featured violins, vibraphones, double bass, piano and cello.   The chorus sounded very angelic from the start of the song.  The reason why i enjoyed listening to this song so much is because it gives you that nostalgic feeling of a happy and peaceful time in your life.  To me it is one of those songs where you can close your eyes and tilt your head back to just completely envelop yourself in the voices of the chorus and then the perfect playing of the instruments.  Every note is played when it should be and the chorus hits every note that they are supposed to without missing a beat.  This song was so touching to me that once I finished watching the video, I went back and listened to this song again and it felt as if i was listening to it for the first time again but yet it felt so familiar.  The chorus’ words hit you like the chilled breeze a fall evening while the violins and cello are evoking the sense of watching leaves get slightly picked up by the wind while walking through the park.  A song hasn’t impacted my emotions the way this song did in a while, and it is refreshing to see that a youth chorus can do that to a musician.

Something that was very interesting to me was the fact that a composer of three of the songs on the album, including There is Sound, was also playing double bass and then electric guitar on a later song.  Richard Reed Parry is a core member of the indie-rock band Arcade Fire, and he is also a composer and musician among other things.  When the host asked him about transitioning from writing for a rock band to writing for the Brooklyn Youth Chorus he said the collaboration was exciting and something new and rewarding.  He mentioned specifically the last piece that they were going to perform because there was a direct collaboration with the chorus. He asked them if they wanted to extend the last part of the song and because they said yes and were excited about performing it, they lengthened it to meet their standards.  I think its amazing that a composer was willing to listen to the young chorus and actually agree with them and make the song even more amazing than it already was.

The last song performed was my second favorite only because There is Sound just captured my emotions and didn’t let go of them.  The chorus was haunting for this song and their voices are still amazing even after singing so many songs previously.  At the beginning of the performance, the violins and cello are playing softly as the chorus is singing in such a united voice that it just wraps you up like your favorite blanket.  The song then changes to being energetic and very catchy.  The chorus goes from standing still to not only singing but also stomping their feet and clapping their hands in unison.  This part seemed to be a lot of fun for the chorus to perform and it was very enjoyable to watch them.  This was a great song to choose to end the performance with and it leaves you knowing how talented the youth chorus is and how talented the chamber ensemble is as well.  This was a great video to watch and I can just imagine how amazing it was for those fortunate enough to be able to attend in person.