The Beautiful Sound of Resistance

Rahim AlHaj

Rahim AlHaj.

For oud master Rahim AlHaj, music is not just a lovely sound, but a tool to open the senses to the world’s beauty, to open the mind to the possibility of peace, and to open the spirit to the guidance of love and compassion. He recognizes that music may appear to be a hopeless weapon against the harrowing madness careering across the planet these days—with particular brutality in his native country of Iraq—but he also believes that it holds the best and perhaps the only hope for bringing people together.

“That is what the significance is about music because it’s always united us. It always brings us together and makes life really beautiful,” he says. “As a musician—and as a human being first—it’s our job, it’s our duty to make peace to this world. This is not politicians’ job, this is not police job.”

This Saturday at the Outpost, AlHaj will shoulder the task once more—with help from David
Felberg (violin), Megan Holland (violin), Justin Pollock (viola), and James Holland (cello) of Chatter Ensemble, and Issa Malluf (percussion)—in a varied program of original music, including a new composition, Smai Hijaz. Continue reading

Happily in the Groove

Arnaldo Acosta.

Arnaldo Acosta.

Just look at the picture. It’s a far cry from the usual jazz artist publicity image depicting the
macho musical philosopher or the steely sage of 64th-note solos or the über-hip conqueror of harmonic heights.

This picture of drummer Arnaldo Acosta is about sheer jubilation, about jumping for joy. Here’s a man who loves his work, and his work is bringing the groove to your ears, heart, and soul.

This Saturday, in the New Mexico Jazz Workshop’s final concert of the summer season, the
Arnaldo Acosta Quintet, featuring Aaron Lovato (sax), Phil Arnold (trombone, harmonica), Stu MacAskie (keys), and Colin Deuble (bass), will explore the happy grooves of soul jazz, with the
intention of spreading a feel-good vibe throughout the amphitheater. (Also appearing on the bill is the Pat Malone Quartet, with the guitarist joined by Kanoa Kaluhiwa on sax, Colin Deuble on bass, and Diego Arencon on drums.) Continue reading

The Return of the Shocking

Pray for Brain

Pray for Brain opens the sixth annual edition of The Roost.

OK, it’s not really shocking (I couldn’t resist echoing the previous post’s title), but it is definitely out of the ordinary: The Roost, Albuquerque’s creative music series, founded, curated, and
produced by Mark Weaver.

Weaver, who hangs out in the lower registers, notably on the tuba and didgeridoo, has an
omnivorous appetite for musical genres. He plays regularly in a trad jazz trio and an edgy,
unclassifiable banjo/tuba duo, as well as a wide variety of irregular aggregations that explore the far reaches of improvisational possibilities. He feels strongly that all varieties of out-of-the-ordinary music deserve a place to call home, and so he founded The Roost, which has
presented several weeks of creative sounds at summer’s end for the last five years. Continue reading

The Return of the Shaman

Clockwise from left: Ernesto Simpson, Childo Tomas, Leandro Saint-Hill, Omar Sosa

Clockwise from left: Ernesto Simpson, Childo Tomas, Leandro Saint-Hill, Omar Sosa.

The New Mexico Jazz Festival brings Cuban pianist/composer Omar Sosa to the Outpost on July 23 and 24 with his New AfroCuban Quartet, with Leandro Saint-Hill (saxophones, flute), Childo Tomas (bass), Ernesto Simpson (drums). For me, Sosa is one of the clearest and most profound voices on the planet—a shaman who is capable of connecting us with a deeper reality—and I was thrilled to be able to interview him.

At the end of May, I reached him by phone at his home in Barcelona at 10:00 p.m. his time and found him in the process of “dealing with my kids.” He issued rapid-fire instructions in Spanish off-line before turning his attention to our call.

The following conversation is very lightly edited. Sosa speaks excellent English—thankfully,
because my Spanish is rusty in the extreme—with a Cuban accent. I have tried to transcribe his words accurately, and I apologize for any errors that my untuned-to-Spanish ears might have introduced.

Sosa speaks with the same urgency, warmth, humor, generosity, and passion with which he plays the piano. Our easy-going half-hour chat touched on his musical approach and intentions, some personal history, his artistic philosophy, and a forthcoming album. Continue reading

The Transformative Sound of Butler, Bernstein & the Hot 9

Butler-Bernstein-Hot9_color Roots grow, too, you know. So if you think that roots music is something charmingly antique, suspended in the amber of time and space, then Henry Butler, Steven Bernstein & the Hot 9 have one hell of a surprise for you.

Their new release, Viper’s Drag, the first from the resurrected impulse! label, revisits American musical roots in a joyous, ever-surprising romp, making connections that stretch from trad jazz and blues to swing and boogie, from Crescent City Indian chants to Sun Ra and everything in
between. This Friday evening, the multiple award-winners Butler and Bernstein, and friends, will be blowing the roof off the Hiland Theater as part of the New Mexico Jazz Festival.

“Our job is not to make music. Our job is to transform people,” says Bernstein.

They are very good at their job. Continue reading