Various Artists - Two Beats, One Soul (2017)

Various Artists
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Various Artists - Two Beats, One Soul

When I was preparing to write the review of Two Beats, One Soul, a project featuring various artists all exploring the intersection of Cuban music, R&B, jazz and hip-hop, I decided to listen to the Afro-Cuban songs made by Dizzy Gillespie. Gillespie was the South Carolina born trumpeter who was there at the creation of be-bop. He also became an early advocate of the fusion of Afro-Cuban music and be-bop jazz.

Gillespie recruited Cuban musicians such as Havana born percussionist Chano Pozo for his band. Pozo co-wrote “Manteca,” which is one of the earliest Afro-Cuban/jazz songs. Later, Gillespie befriended, mentored and helped fellow trumpeter Arturo Sandoval defect from Cuba in 1990.

Various Artists - Two Beats, One Soul

When I was preparing to write the review of Two Beats, One Soul, a project featuring various artists all exploring the intersection of Cuban music, R&B, jazz and hip-hop, I decided to listen to the Afro-Cuban songs made by Dizzy Gillespie. Gillespie was the South Carolina born trumpeter who was there at the creation of be-bop. He also became an early advocate of the fusion of Afro-Cuban music and be-bop jazz.

Gillespie recruited Cuban musicians such as Havana born percussionist Chano Pozo for his band. Pozo co-wrote “Manteca,” which is one of the earliest Afro-Cuban/jazz songs. Later, Gillespie befriended, mentored and helped fellow trumpeter Arturo Sandoval defect from Cuba in 1990.

The importance of percussion – drums, congas, maracas and the like - are key elements in the Afro-Cuban music, as well as American blues, soul and jazz. This should not be surprising as the Africans brought to the western hemisphere through the trans-Atlantic slave trade viewed the drum as more than simply a musical instrument. And if there is one strand that runs through “Manteca,” “Cubano Be Cubano Bop,” and the 13 tracks produced by Ray and Vivian Scott Chew along with Mark and Kathy Grier for Two Beats, One Soul, it is how the percussive quality of every instrument is deployed to maximum effect. That churning, forward moving percussion that insisted that people move appealed to Gillespie, who had a mission to prove that modern jazz could be dance music. The hip-hop, jazz, soul and R&B infused tracks on Two Beats, One Soul also showcase what makes Afro-Cuban music so danceable regardless of genre or whether the listener speaks the same language as the vocalist.

Highlights on Two Beats, One Soul include the mid-tempo “Zun Zun,” that fuses a Spanish guitar with a New Orleans styled shuffle percussion, and guest vocalists Eric Benet and Jon B., who both shine on ballads “The Rhythm” and “Havana Moon.”

The work of producer and DJ Louie Vega is featured on several tracks on Two Beats, One Soul, with “The World Is A Family” standing out both for its message and the powerful baritone of Josh Milan. The number sports an energetic bass line that plays off percussive shakers and slashing violins, as well as an inspirational message of universal love and connections across borders and language that is sorely needed right now.

Language could be a barrier on Two Beats, One Soul, but it never becomes one. Folks like me ‘no hablo Espanol’ can still enjoy a track such as “I Can’t Live” because of wonderful vocal phrasing deployed by Jean Rodriguez, who switches between Spanish and singing the hook in English. Of course, listeners will be instantly transformed into dancers on this complex yet infectious number, so while the words may not be completely understood the message still comes through.

The United States and Cuba are separated by 90 miles of water in the Gulf of Mexico. Yet geo-politics served to erect a barrier that significantly closed the two countries for more than five decades. Musicians have never allowed factors such as politics to prevent them from drawing inspiration from each other, and the exchange that Gillespie initiated more than 70 years ago continues with Two Beats, One Soul with the same result – dancing bodies. Solidly Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

[The mp3 album is available now. The CD for Two Beats, One Soul will be released in November]

 
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