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Julian Gerstin Sextet
July 14, 2017 @ 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm EDT$15
Drums from Martinique and Cuba mingle with rhythms of Turkey and Bulgaria in the jazz world of percussionist/composer Julian Gerstin. Living in Martinique for two years, Julian studied the unusual tanbou drum, played with both hands and one foot. To bring this instrument home, he composed music for a jazz setting, where musicians can improvise and create on the basis of tradition. He draws also on his experiences traveling and working with musicians from Cuba, Brazil, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa and Egypt. The sextet has just released its first CD and celebrates at Buttonwood Tree.
Julian’s compositions combine rhythmic drive with melodies that sneak jazz complexity into singable, even catchy, lines. “Dig It Deeper,” for example, weds a bluesy, funky melody to the Martinican rhythm bèlè, played for folk dances that themselves combine African movements with French quadrilles. The composition also includes a quote from the Martinican folk song “Pani pasé lamen oswé-a,” (“We’re not fooling around tonight”), alluding to the island’s heritage of resistance. “The quote gives the composition a depth that Martinican audiences will understand,” Julian explains, “and it fits the mood I wrote in. Besides, I really love that melody.”
In a similar culture-spanning vein, “Child Left Behind” is a Latin jazz burner played to a Cuban rumba guaguancó. It is followed by the CD’s only vocal track, “Apprendiendo Como Amar,” a folkloric drums-and-vocal guaguancó composed by Julian, recorded in San Francisco with five of the Bay Area’s best Cuban drummers and singers.
For his sextet, Julian has assembled a powerhouse of creative like-minded musicians Anna Patton, clarinet, plays with one foot in jazz and the other in Macedonia, and trumpeter Don Anderson, adds a salsa veteran’s heat. Pianist Miro Sprague has brought his ear for fresh sonorities to work with Wayne Shorter, Greg Osby and Matt Wilson; bassist Wes Brown’s gigs have spanned the history of jazz from Earl “Fatha” Hines to Wadada Leo Smith and Fred Ho; and drummer Ben James has anchored both rock bands and free jazz great John Tchicai.