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Tuesday August 27, 2013

From Concord Music Group

Roberto Fonseca to Release ‘YO’ on Concord Jazz August 27, 2013:

An Album at the Crossroads of Jazz, Traditional Music and Soul

In the span of less than fifteen years and numerous solo and collaborative recordings, Cuban-born pianist and composer Roberto Fonseca has established himself as one of the most innovative and charismatic musicians of his generation by blending the diverse sounds of Latin and American jazz, Afro-pop, hip-hop, soul and numerous other shades of music from all corners of the world.

Touring with the Buena Vista Social Club TM, the legendary GRAMMY® Award-winning Cuban collective, proved a fertile training ground for Fonseca’s early career. In the years since, thanks to an innovative artistic sense that has never shied away from eclecticism and multiculturalism, Fonseca and his music have become the bridge between the traditional sounds and the new voice of Cuban music.

His new album, Yo – which translates to “I” or “me” in his native Spanish – is Fonseca’s most daring recording to date. Recorded in a single week in Paris, Yo is a finely crafted blend of traditional acoustic instruments with elements of cutting-edge electronica – a mesmerizing musical alchemy that pays homage to Cuba’s African roots while at the same time updating the country’s rich musical lineage. Yo is set for release on Concord Jazz on August 27, 2013.

“This album unveils the beginning of a new phase more than the closure of an old one,” says Fonseca. “On Yo, I want to delve deep into my roots in light of my experiences and show the diversity of my musical universe, all these ideas which I had put aside, unable to use until now.”

He gets plenty of assistance in this exploratory process, from a crew whose origins span two hemispheres. Percussionist Baba Sissoko, bassist Étienne M’Bappé, guitarist Munir Hossni, and Sekou Kouyate on kora make up the African contingent. Their Cuban counterparts include percussionist Joel Hierrezuelo, drummer Ramsés Rodríguez, and double bassist Felipe Cabrera.

In addition, Yo includes vocal collaborations from Faudel, Fatoumata Diawara, Assane Mboup and spoke-word artist Mike Ladd. The album is co-produced by Fonseca and his manager, Daniel Florestano, but additional production credit goes to Gilles Peterson, who co-produced two tracks, and Count (DJ Shadow, Radiohead, The Rolling Stones), the American producer who mastered the album.

Yo opens in full party mode, not unlike the groove that characterizes the closing of Fonseca’s live performances. Perhaps one of the most powerful songs on the album, “80s” is a celebration of an era in Cuba when people danced without giving much thought to musical labels and categories.

From there we are immediately transported to Africa with the help of “Bibisa,” a track by Baba Sissoko that positions Fonseca’s piano alongside Fatoumata Diawara’s voice and a duo of African strings performed by Sissoko and Sekou Kouyate. “It’s an organic and spiritual theme, which imagines a small group of people gathered underneath a tree to talk,” says Fonseca. “The clave – the rhythmic pattern on which Cuban popular music is organized – is there from the beginning, and the whole piece plays on this contrast between this Cuban leitmotiv and the noticeably African elements. This is the objective of the album: to touch the African roots without forgetting where I came from, without forgetting Cuba.”

“Mi Negra Ave Maria” is a piano/bass/drums composition that gains an added layer of vitality from the improvised poem by Mike Ladd. “Honestly, I thought the piece was already rich enough in its instrumental version and that a voice was not necessary. I did not imagine the joy that Mike was going to achieve as he recited the text little by little. My English is not very good, and I did not understand at all what he was saying, but it was evident that his words were elevating the spiritual dimension.”

Further in, “Gnawa Stop” demonstrates the similarity between Gnawa and Afro-Cuban rhythms. In the song’s first stage, the instruments find their place. In the second, they establish a common tempo, until the song eventually settles into a groove that leaves the impression that it can last all night and perhaps never stop.

“El Mayor” is a brief interlude that pays tribute to Luis Jesús Valdés Cortés, Fonseca’s older brother and the person primarily responsible for Fonseca’s passion for American funk. The sounds of a crackling radio are superimposed on the lines of a piano to recreate the bygone era when Luis Jesús worked on his piano technique amid the radio music that brought new music to Cuba.

In the home stretch, “Quien soy yo” is a powerful cross-cultural composition. The theme draws from different styles of Cuban music to deconstruct and recompose the elements of a unique structure. To this already rich arrangement comes the vocal power of Assane Mboup and the Brazilian riffs of guitarist Munir Hossni.

“Rachel” composed by Ramsés Rodríguez, is named for one of Rodríguez’s daughters. “Ramsés had recorded an earlier version in a Cuban vein,” says Fonseca, “but after listening to the piece, I immediately thought that it could be adapted to this legendary style.” Fonseca combines a triumvirate of keyboard sounds – Hammond B-3, Fender Rhodes and Moog synthesizer – in a jazz-funk hymn driven by the rhythm section of Rodríguez, Étienne M’Bappé and Joel Hierrezuelo.

From start to finish, the multi-layered and highly textured beauty of Yo has already resonated in Europe, where the album was released in 2012. The Sunday Times (London) listed it among their top 10 albums of the year, while it made the 2012 Critics Choice list in Le Monde. France’s Vibrations chose it as Album of the Year. The album also won two 2013 Cubadisco Awards (the Cuban equivalent of the Grammys in the U.S.), one for Best Fusion Album and the other for Best Recording.

To those few who may still be wondering who Roberto Fonseca is, and to the many who thought they knew him, the pianist replies: Yo. It is an epic work at the crossroads of jazz, traditional music and soul – one that spans oceans and continents to present a new artist, not because he has changed, but because his art still holds many surprises.

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