Few things are more rewarding for me as a musician than to hear my music performed by some of the greatest jazz instrumentalists in the world. I have been lucky to have several of them play regularly in my band. Most of the tunes on Refugee, my third CD but first on the ZOHO label, were composed and arranged with one or more of the featured performers in mind. We recorded two tunes each in four separate sessions. There was different personnel in each session, each representing four different moments in the continuing evolution of my band Foreign Affair.
For instance, I wrote Eddie's Ready thinking about the great 1970s Bill Evans Trio recordings that I devoured (and still do) in the early stages of my development as a musician. The unmistakable sound of bassist Eddie Gomez was just as appealing to my ears as was Bill Evans’ piano. Eddie made my tune his own, enveloping it with his unmistakable sound and imagination.
For the other tune with Eddie, Beauty Sleep, I had a "cutting contest" in mind; those nights in Harlem in the early 1930s when pianists like James P. Johnson and his protege Fats Waller would challenge each other until ‘the wee hours’ of the morning…
The title tune Refugee is my humble tribute to the millions of people forgotten by the world after they left their homes and their lives behind because of war, famine or natural disaster. I could only write the tune with the unsurpassable sound and art of Cameroonian bassist Richard Bona in mind. I consider myself lucky for having had him in my band for over a year and a half. My fellow Colombian, percussion prodigy Samuel Torres, accurately interpreted the spirit of the tune, adding several takes of African Djembe as well as multiple Afro-cuban Conga rhythms, including an incredible 3/2 Cumbia! -
I called on my idol and teacher Kenny Barron to help me recreate a similar magic in this track. No one better than Jeff “Tain “ Watts to interact on the drums with musicians of such caliber and trajectory. Jeff has played quite a few gigs with me and knows most of my material, giving it his unique touch and spirit. My old friend Sammy Figueroa, also one of my favorite percussionists, added the perfect touch, performing an exquisite swinging low conga beat to the straight-ahead sections the late master Ray Barretto would have happily approved of.
When I first went to the island of Tahiti, as a guest at the Pacific Rim Music Festival, the stunningly beautiful setting inspired me to add lyrics to Observatorio, a tune I wrote for my wife Amparo. I was audacious enough to perform and sing the tune in what I consider my official debut as a “singer”. Back in New York I added the vocals to an instrumental version I had already recorded. Roberto Quintero’s percussion is superb, adding to the sub-tropical magic the tune was dreamed up in.
Observatorio is also featured in Samuel Torres’ first CD, “Skin Tones”, with English lyrics written and performed by Julie Dollison, who later made it the title tune of her own debut album, “Observatory’. At the time of this session, Matt Garrison’s unequivocal bass provided the foundation of the band’s sound. His solos on Observatorio and the other tune of this session, You Won’t Forget Me, are exquisite ad hoc compositions in their own right!
In these first four tunes, mentioned so far the common thread is the unmistakable guitar of my friend and longtime band member Mark Whitfield, adding incredible sweetness and virtuosity, besides a solid, swinging rhythmic foundation. I chose the ballad You Won’t Forget Me, one of two non-original cover songs on this album, with Mark’s unforgettable musicianship and sound in mind. Cuban drum-magician Dafnis Prieto joins Mark, Matt and Roberto in a fine filigree of sounds and colors, providing a subtle and intricate rhythmic infrastructure.
During sound checks and to warm up, we always played that beautiful G minor blues by the late Don Grolnick, Nothing Personal. Easy and powerful, the tune is a perfect vehicle to enjoy Richard's virtuosity. Willard Dyson's drumming in both tunes of this session is absolutely remarkable. His solo in the polyrhythmical Refugee is simply put mind-boggling! Edgardo Miranda fully proves that he is arguably the best Latin Jazz guitarist, though barely known outside the Latin Jazz scene.
Edgardo’s playing is also masterful in the incomparable late-night session featuring one of the first editions of Foreign Affair. This all-latin “dream team” lived up to any and all expectations and recorded those two tunes as if we were on one of our habitual gigs in that most exquisite and intimate of New York Jazz Clubs, the Zinc Bar. 99 MacDougal is a perfect vehicle to showcase Horacio “Negro” Hernandez’ incredible sensitivity, complemented, not eclipsed, by his almost pyrotechnical virtuosity. In Tomorrow’s Past (similar to Refugée in its rhythmical intricacies and originally conceived as a 3/2 ballad) Horacio and bass virtuoso John Benitez, with Samuel on board, coalesce into the most infernal rhythm machine imaginable. John’s solo on 99 MacDougal takes us on a cruise through the different mystical lands that make up his musical world.
Although I play the acoustic and electric pianos in all the tunes -except the electric on Beauty Sleep which is Kenny Barron- and sing the vocals on one track, I prefer the role I almost instinctively adopted, paraphrasing Auguste Rodin: provide boulders of marble of distinctive shapes and sizes to a group of sculptors and then collectively carve out the most beautiful shapes imprisoned inside those rocks. Hector Martignon
Tracks 1 and 8 recorded at Environmental Recording Sanctuary, New York, NY by Cesar Rivera. Tracks 2,3,4,5 and 7 recorded at Systems 2, Brooklyn, NY, by Mike and Joe Marciano. Tracks 1,2,6 and 8 mixed by Hoover Lee at JSM Studios, New York, NY. Tracks 3,4,5 and 7 mixed by Ken Freeman, New York, NY. Mastered by Hoover Lee at JSM Studios, New York, NY. Photography : Herman Baron. Package design : 3 and Co., New York www.3andco.com Producer: Hector Martignon. Executive Producers: Joachim “Jochen” Becker and Hector Martignon.