Something (So Much) More
Having sat on a preview copy of Mark Weinstein's Algo Más for several moons, and been compelled to play it almost incessantly, it is a great joy that this most innovative gem of a revolutionary album is now released and I am able to review it at last. Sitting on Algo Más for me has been like having a preview of Sergeant Pepper long before the wider world got to hear about it, and you're just itching to share this fabulous music.
Algo Más - Something More. A title and a half if ever there was one. It could not be more appropriate for Mark Weinstein's latest outstanding album. Algo Más is something more, in every respect. Mark Weinstein said that his (original) aim for Algo Más was to create a kind of Cuban Roots of and for the 21st Century. A lofty aim, unless you're Weinstein - true genius always surpasses itself. With Algo Más, he has done something more than far surpassing this original aim and given us not only the most exciting and innovative Afro-Cuban jazz album since his original, now legendary, 1967 Cuban Roots, but he has once again succeeded in a new "Cuban" revolution. This album is so fresh, bursting at the seams with raw energy, and so completely new, it just takes your breath away and blows your mind. Of course, in the nearly forty years since the original Cuban Roots, Mark Weinstein has matured enormously, and it should come as no surprise that Algo Más is also a much more mature and indeed, complex and sophisticated creation.
Weinstein had been searching for a long while before finally finding the right combination of musicians for this project. He found them in an all-star line-up of fellow Palmieri alum, vocalist and master percussionist Pedro "Pedrito" Martinez, who also hand-picked the percussion section, Jean-Paul Bourelly on electric guitar, and veteran jazz and Latin bassist Santi Debriano; several of this team will be remembered from previous Weinstein albums.
Thus, the third incarnation of Cuban Roots was now in place and things could move ahead.
Algo Más is a kind of musical crossroads, a meeting of the old with the new, a kind of family reunion you could say also where the older generation meets with the younger. Whereas with the original Cuban Roots album Mark Weinstein for the first time introduced Cuban folk and Santeria rhythms and melodies into Latin jazz and really fathered the modern Afro-Cuban jazz idiom, with Algo Más he not only goes even deeper into these Cuban roots and simultaneously combines them with a thoroughly modern idiom, but lays bare the very roots of rhythm & blues, hard rock, bebop, free jazz, soul, funk, and even reggae. The intrinsic connection of Cuban folk and the deep African roots therein and the later idioms is revealed as never before, and Mark Weinstein creates a perfect synthesis with the modern, resulting in something entirely new and original.
Mesmerising grooves combine with the most complex rhythmic and harmonic textures and bopish but often highly lyrical and soaring flute improvs. Even the dissonances, and there are plenty in the complex multi-tonality of Algo Más, are possessed of an incredible beauty, and it all actually makes perfect sense to the ear, mind and heart. Mark Weinstein takes us on a journey through time and space, full of surprises, revealing undiscovered beauty everywhere and in the most unexpected places. And in the process, Weinstein also reveals to us an infinity of possibilities. Algo Más is another revelation altogether.
Today's leading jazz flutist, Mark Weinstein has added the bass flute to his soprano and alto for Algo Más, and to the most wondrous and wonderful effect. Frequently, he combines all three through judicious multi-tracking, with all three parts mostly improvised - it's like having three Mark Weinstein's simultaneously, the effect is just stunning. Often, as most notably on Salud Asojano, the bass and alto lay down an absolutely hypnotic groove, with the soprano soaring in lyrical bopish improvs. Algo Más reveals flute master Weinstein at his very finest, with probably the finest alto and bass flute you'll have heard, and I feel certain that past masters of the instrument would have had no difficulty in concurring in admiration.
Add to this the authenticity of Pedro "Pedrito" Martinez's folkloric and Santeria vocals, and the latter-day Jimmy Hendrix - on - steroids like guitar of Jean-Paul Bourelly, all layered onto an out of this world rhythm section with its Cuban folk and Santeria rhythms, and you have the makings of something truly extraordinary that became Algo Más.
With the total consistency of Algo Más that one has come to take for granted from Mark Weinstein, it seems almost superfluous to go into detail for individual tracks. Nonetheless, for the sheer joy of this album I feel compelled to do so at least briefly.
Ellegua Abierto (Open Ellegua) provides the opener of Algo Más and is an invocation to the Santeria deity Ellegua, the gatekeeper of the crossroads, in keeping with Santeria tradition. Bourelly's here almost dreamy, meditative guitar opening leads into Martinez's captivating vocals, joined by the rhythm section and soon Weinstein's dancing, devotional alto improvs in two parts. You already know you're partaking of a unique experience. Sacred and secular songs alternate on Mark Weinstein's Algo Más, and Mis Consuelos (My Consolations) is based on a popular rumba, Consuelate Como Yo. Weinstein's flutes are like something straight out of jazz heaven, and the interplay with Bourelly is as sublime. The call and response between Weinstein's soprano and alto and bass is sheer magic, with the latter soon playing an incredibly trombone-like background riff. Although it may be unfair to pick favourites and next to impossible as well, I have to confess that Mis Consuelos is one of my two or three firm faves nonetheless, and I never seem to be able to get it and Weinstein's soaring lyrical improvs and 'bone-like riffs out of my head. Again, I feel compelled to admit to much the same about Aguas de Ochún (Ochún's Waters), another sacred song, this time for the goddess of love, marriage and motherhood in the Yoruba tradition. Here, the gentle vocals of Pedro "Pedrito" Martinez capture you from the first bar, and Mark Weinstein's alto and bass choros, and chirpy soprano, just won't let go, nor will the call-and-response like exchanges between Martinez and Jean-Paul Bourelly's Hendrix-like guitar that starts off with Afro-Pop like riffs that gradually change to a bluesy, uptempo rock jam. An incredibly chirpy, happy soprano flute starts off Mamita Baila (Mamita Dances), and we are treated to the most extensive solo of Santi Debriano's bass on this album, providing a somewhat darker contrast that is no less hypnotic than Weinstein's flutes or the complex percussion that is also given an extensive solo that brings this dance tune to a close. We return to the sacred and the deity of the winds with Vientos de Oyá (Winds of Oyá) and a very 1950s doo-wop vibe that gets pushed into an increasingly insistent gospel-like preacher and choir exchange between Martinez and Weinstein respectively.
Haitian inspirations come into play on Jete Dio (First Water), giving free rein to the percussion with a driving rumba-meets-merengue animal of a groove and Bourelly's driven - and sometimes overdriven - guitar. You could be forgiven for imagining you're listening to Jimi Hendrix again! Caminando con Agayú (Walking with Agayú), dedicated to the patron of travelers, has another hypnotic choro of Mark Weinstein's flutes and equally mesmerising vocal improvisations from Pedro "Pedrito" Martinez with a very bluesy feel. Played as a rumba colombia, Fantasia Malanga (Malanga Fantasy) is Weinstein's third version of this classic. Here, alto and bass flutes lay down a dirge in half-time over the driving drums, and we are treated to some of the most intricate dissonances and fiery solos by Weinstein and Bourelly. What follows I again cannot resist but describe as one of my absolute faves on Mark Weinstein's Algo Más, the completely magic, mesmerising Salud Asojano (Health Asojano), which draws upon a song for the deity of the earth and health, Babalú, from the Congolese tradition. It's simple charm and rich textures are totally irresistible and captivating, aided by the most memorable of Weinstein's bass and alto flute choros that is impossible to get out of your head. One of the delightful surprises here is the nod to Moises Simon's El Manicero (The Peanut Vendor) that's embedded in those textures and sometimes is recalled also by Weinstein's soprano. Discovering this upon first hearing was an almost indescribable delight, especially since El Manicero has always been one of my favourite standards, and it still surprises and delights. All too soon we've come to the eponymous closer, an uptempo rumba. Algo Más has the feel of an all-out 1960s jam between Bourelly and Weinstein, who pull out all the stops and no holds barred - breathtaking!
Mark Weinstein's Algo Más is a deeply satisfying album, and deeply spiritual as one has come to expect from Weinstein. It is both an adventure of discovery and a revelation. It is exciting, full of charm and wit, and just totally captivating, exhilarating and irresistible. It is also every bit as revolutionary in its own way as the first Cuban Roots, and I'm sure it will make its influence felt in years to come and for years to come. And Algo Más is more. So much more.
You simply cannot afford to miss out on this momentous release. Regardless of what particular kind of "genre" you come from, Algo Más transcends all. Spine-tingling music!
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