From left to right : David Bixler, Heather Martin Bixler, Arturo O'Farrill. Photo: Jack Frisch.
“She Moved Through the Fair” is itself a bit of a fusion a traditional song collected in County Donegal by Belfast musicologist Herbert Hughes, whose version of the melody was later married to lyrics by Irish poet Padraic Colum. It’s a haunting melody that acquires additional layers of mystery in the Auction Project’s arrangement. “Banish Misfortune” was a jig that became popular among musicians when it was included in Francis O’Neill’s 1903 Music of Ireland, to which it was contributed by Tipperary fiddler Edward Cronin.
“Heather’s Waltz” is actually a medley of slip jigs (aka “hop jigs”), dance tunes in 9/8 time. The first was published as “O’Farrell’s Welcome to Limerick” in an early 19th century collection of piping tunes. The second, “The Arragh Mountains,” is a composition of the late Tipperary button accordionist Paddy O’Brien. The third, which Heather picked up in a Belfast session, is a rhythmic reworking of County Fermanagh bouzouki player Fintan McManus’ “The Guns of the Magnificent Seven,” a reel that includes an odd measure with seven instead of the usual four beats. Don Meade
No matter how carefully you look at David Bixler, you won’t see his swarthy Hispanic side. You talk to him and his accent gives nothing away. Apart from the neighborhood he lives in (decidedly Dominican) his day-to-day life reveals nothing. His family doesn’t particularly look Nuyorican. His position as professor of jazz studies is in Bowling Green State University, a location not renowned for its mofongo or platanos.
So if it’s not his looks, his speech, or his life, where exactly are his Afro- Cuban roots hiding? And then you hear it! It’s in his playing and in his compositions that the passion is revealed. He has that declamatory style and spontaneous melodicism that is such a feature of our best soneros. He has an abandon that is born out of fire and ice colliding as it always does in the art of those who stand culturally in the midst of many worlds.
The Auction Project is very much about colliding cultures. Whether you call it Afro-Latin, Afro-Cuban, Afro-Celtic, Afro-Polka or Afro-whatever, he imbues every note he writes with information about the worlds we inhabit. It is a beautiful sense of syncopated drama that governs his music. This is why we have so much fun playing in each other’s projects.
Two examples from the recording illustrate my point. “June 26 ‘07” has a laid-back cha cha cha feel that is genuine in its rhythmic authenticity. It also has a delightfully syncopated series of interwoven melodies that in the wrong hands could become dangerously thick and not groove-worthy, but in David’s care the whole affair is seamless and quite effortless. Part of this has to do with the musicians he’s picked. There is no room for inflexibility between Vince Cherico, Roland Guerrero and Carlo Dirosa. The ease and transition of styles genres and grooves is always lovely and musical.
“Heptagonesque” is a prime example of musical precepts that I aspire to, a groove driven, Afro-Latin 12/8 bass line, a sophisticated harmonic structure, a quirky jazzy melody, and honest, heartfelt abandonment in the improvisation. These are core musical values to me.
I sense that the project is also very much about the life of a jazz saxophonist/composer married to a classical violinist/Irish fiddler. Heather Martin Bixler is an extraordinary musician whose gentle and graceful performance on this recording is comprehensive in its knowledge of the different styles represented here.
Talk about colliding cultures there is plenty here for a Mexican, Cuban/Irish pianist to sink his teeth into. For a kid born in Mexico, there is a profound kinship with this child of the American heartland. He doesn’t so much resemble Zorro as much as that he gets that twinkle in his eye which I’ve seen in a lot of my people. I think maybe David is Hispanglo. - Arturo O’Farrill
Recorded April 2, 2010 at Twinz Recording Studio. Engineer: Katherine Miller. Mastering by Mark Bunce. Producer: David Bixler. Photography : Jack Frisch and Jerry Lacay (photos Vince Cherico, Roland Guerrero, Carlo Derosa). Package Design : Jack Frisch. Executive Producer: Joachim “Jochen” Becker.