|Lets go to Guantanamo
by Joyce Corbett January 2006
This CD is so full of influences and confluences, if you asked me, I could write a book. The list of musicians on the CD is high volume. There is Jane Bunnetts current group: David Virelles on piano, Larry Cramer on trumpet, Kieran Overs on acoustic bass, Ethan Ardelli on drums and Jalidan Luis Castro on congas. There are two Changui groups and a vocalist, Tiburon Morales, from Cuba. There are two New Orleans natives, Howard Johnson on tuba and Johnny Sansone on accordion, harmonica and vocals plus guest musicians Dewey Redman on tenor, Kevin Breit on guitars, Denis Keldie on organ, and Carlos Tomas on trumpet.
The liner notes mention the province of Guantanamos musical influences: African, Spanish, French, Haitian and, via the military base, American. The notes also give you a flavour of the darker side of Guantanamo and its state of ever-present vigilance. All of these elements are present in the music on Radio Guantanamo.
The first track, Changui para Alfredo is a changui-jazz blend written by Jane Bunnett, played by the Grupo Changui de Guantanamo along with Jane Bunnetts group, Dewey Redman and Howard Johnson. Its a well-chosen opener, marrying the two traditions seamlessly. The last piece on the CD, Vamos para Guaso, Compay (Lets go to Guantanamo), which also adds jazz intruments to the changui mix, provides a logical conclusion. I like the order of the pieces on this CD, the flow and the contrasts.
The second track is Johnny Sansones Give Me One Dollar. It features accordion and tuba over Afro-Cuban percussion, and like Johnnys other piece No Money, No Chica it is a saucy, street-smart teaser that shuffles between Cuba and New Orleans. Johnny Sansones harmonica and Denis Keldies organ lead into the third track, Kiriba, a traditional Afro-Cuban song.
Guantanamo Blues (Part 1) starts out subdued and bluesy and takes you on a complex voyage. The deep African roots and penetrating vocals of Loma de Chivo (Part 2) reach into your soul and cling there. Conga Blue excites with its heavy-hitting rhythm, and the dreamy You Have Changed My Life leaves you with a pleasant glow.
New Orleans Under Water (Nueva Orleans bajo agua), credited to Jane Bunnett, Johnny Sansone and Kevin Breit, is the masterpiece of the CD. Haunting electric sounds and breathy flute set the atmosphere, then rhythm and melody enter to sweep us into hues of blues, depths of unspeakable tragedy, flute screams, gripping harmonica and sliding guitar. This is followed by Yemaya, based on a traditional Cuban song. Yemaya is the goddess of the sea in the Santeria religion, the goddess from whom all life springs.
Jane Bunnetts Radio Guantanamo is jazz, blues and world music, sometimes distinct and sometimes deliciously intermingled. It will make you want more. Seconds and thirds are coming. Volume 2 and a DVD are in the works.