Fri, December 15, 2017
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2017-12-15 8:00 pm
Merrimans' Playhouse Jazz Performance Series Presents Roy Mcgrath Quartet ! at Merrimans' Playhouse
CD Release Tour:
Roy McGrath on saxophone
Kitt Lyles on bass
Joaquin Garcia on piano
Gustavo Cortinas on drums
It can be argued that, while we go about life as an organic machine made of flesh and bone, our consciousness, what makes us human, is something else entirely. What is our consciousness if not a cumulative collection of constantly updated memories that have been organized in such a way as to advise us what to feel and do next?
Memory is subjective, and not necessarily entirely factual, a retelling of experience. While facts might be recalled incorrectly, memories are our truths, and ultimately the question becomes What do I do with these things I know to be true?
For Puerto Rico-born tenor saxophonist and composer Roy McGrath, the past is present in the form of these memories. This music honors that past, yet also provides a signpost for the future. The eight compositions that make up this album were written and arranged for this particular band of musicians, and they represent a very specific and personal truth that fully came into existence in the recording studio.
Remembranza is a Spanish word that can be used multiple ways. A remembranza can be a memory or even a flashback. It is a point in the past that is deeply rooted in ones consciousness because of the powerful feelings that were evoked at the time of its creation.
And, of course, new remembranzas are being created all the time.
At the core of this album are four tunes written with a very specific purpose. McGrath was commissioned in 2015 by the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center in Chicago to compose a Afro-Caribbean jazz suite honoring revered Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos. What eventually emerged out of Julia al Son de Jazz, as the project was called, were four compositions. Two were loosely based on her poems and two sought to capture something about who Burgos was and how she lived her life.
Like the other songs originally composed for Julia al Son de Jazz, the form of Canción de la Verdad Sencilla does not follow the path of its original conception, but remains true to its intent. The title comes from a Burgos poem, and translates to Song of Simple Truth. It is cast in a folkloric bomba sicá rhythm played by Ivelisse Diaz on Barril Seguidor. It begins with McGraths solitary saxophone, but he soon yields to two voices as the rhythm section bubbles underneath. Puerto Rico-born actress Rosanna Sanchez reads excerpts of Burgos poem in Spanish. Claritza Maldonado, a U.S. poet of Puerto Rican descent, reads her own English poem about her mother and grandmother before her, ocean spelled m.a.m.i. The two feminine voices engage in a conversation that spans three quarters of a century and three thousand miles. McGrath re-enters to establish the melody which is then picked up by the rest of the band, alternating sicá and yubá rhythms.
As 2015 turned into 16 & 17, McGrath worked with several musicians, eventually finding the exact people to help him realize the form that the Julia songs would take. The remaining tracks each relate to a memory from McGraths life, both in Puerto Rico and the U.S., where he has resided since 2007. They have to do with the very stuff of life: family, relationships, creation, and identity. These may be specific memories from McGraths life, but their themes resonate with universal human experience.
They include the title track which, in a way, touches on all four. This quartet (bassist Kitt Lyles, drummer Jonathan Wenzel, and pianist Bill Cessna), in fact, inspired the idea of a remembranza as a theme to build the album around, up to and including the process of creating it.
Though a memory can be fleeting, there will always be this work that lights and keeps present this remembranza.
Taken together, they are a portrait not of the past, but of a very real present that each and every memory led to, and the creation of this album is the newest powerful Remembranza that McGrath and his quartet carry with them.
- Don Macica
$15 General; $10 Student
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Merrimans' Playhouse, 1211 W Mishawaka Avenue