Meet Me At The Border

At the fence on the Tijuana-San Diego border at the Fandango Fronterizo.

Two new recordings by Latin artists are powerful reflections on the current administration’s treatment of immigrants and enforcement of border policies: Lines in the Sand (CAM Jazz) by Mexican born and raised drummer and composer Antonio Sánchez, a naturalized American citizen; and Fandango at the Wall: A Soundtrack for The United States, Mexico and Beyond (Resilience Music Alliance) by American pianist, composer, arranger and educator Arturo O’Farrill, who was actually born in Mexico, will be released Friday, Sept. 28.

These efforts join recently released works by other high profile Latin artists such as Puerto Rican drummer, bandleader and educator Bobby Sanabria (West Side Story Reimagined), Mexican singer and songwriter Magos Herrera with Brooklyn Rider (Dreamers) and Puerto Rican saxophonist, composer and arranger Miguel Zenón (Yo Soy La Tradición).

While broadly diverse in tone, approach, and instrumentation, these recordings, either explicitly or by the nature of the work, are a response to the current administration’s policies and attitudes towards immigrants and people of color.

 

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Beauty As A Blunt Instrument

In their new releases, both collaborations with adventurous string quartets, Brooklyn-based Mexican singer and composer Magos Herrera and Puerto Rican saxophonist and composer Miguel Zenón make their statements about the current administration’s casual cruelty at the border and its callous neglect of Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria simply by putting a spotlight on Latin American musical traditions.

In the right hands, beauty can be a quite effective blunt instrument.

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Remembering Randy Weston

Anybody interested in a broad view of jazz and the many ways, despite borders, humanity is interconnected, owes a debt of gratitude to pianist, composer, and bandleader Randy Weston, who passed away in his sleep Saturday, Sept. 1.
He was 92.

A bebopper and admirer of Thelonious Monk early on, Randolph Edward Weston’s approach to jazz evolved shaped by the teachings of his father, a Marcus Garvey’s supporter; and the work of jazz scholar Marshall Stearns, author of the influential The Story of Jazz, whom he met while working at the fabled Music Inn in Stockbridge, MA.

By the late 50s, Weston was committed to a two-way path: taking jazz to Africa while also championing the African roots of jazz.
It’s a perspective that would largely color the rest of his career.

Randy Weston African Rythm Orchestra Live at The Montreux Jazz Festival (1985)

Weston moved to Morocco in 1968, and lived there for five years, running a performing space, the African Rhythms Cultural Center, and actively engaging the Gnawa musical tradition.

His work with gnawa music is captured in exceptional recordings such as The Splendid Master Gnawa Musicians of Morocco (Verve Antilles, 1995), a showcase of gnawa musicians recorded in Morocco that earned a GRAMMY nomination; and Spirit! The Power of Music (Sunnyside, 2000) a live recording of a concert at a church in Brooklyn featuring Weston’s African Rhythms Quintet and an ensemble of musicians from Morocco.

Randy Weston opened doors both ways.

‘Blue Moses’ by Randy Weston, Abdellah El Gourd and Dar Gnawa of Tanger ” New School, New York City, Oct. 13, 2015.