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Soné Ka-La

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Album Review

When it came time for this talented, eclectic tenor man — a native of Guadeloupe whose parents, both award-winning authors, are a black Guadeloupean mother and a Holocaust-surviving French Jewish father — to record his solo projects, he had a wide variety of stylistic directions to choose from. He's been in many bands with jazz superstar Roy Hargrove, including Crisol, and his extensive touring with neo-soul god D'Angelo led him to work with David Gilmore and Me'Shell NdegéOcello. But rather than draw on these professional influences, Jacques Schwarz-Bart digs straight to his roots, blending the traditional gwoka rhythms of Guadeloupe with the jazz, gospel, and soul he absorbed during a lifetime spent everywhere from the Caribbean to Western Europe and the U.S. His tenor playing is inventive and colorful, his improvisations stellar throughout, and he blends beautifully with the dense African percussion, rolling rhythms, and light female and huskier male native choirs. The musician's intention, however, is to tell a rhythmic and melodic story of the history of many styles, fusing into a contemporary narrative in a wide array of moods and modes. The result is an exhilarating, hard to classify Afro-jazz delight that defies all genre specifics but fits cozily into both jazz and world music bins. His story begins with the infectious clapping rhythms of "Papale," built on the insistent war rhythm known as mende, with Schwarz-Bart's sizzling sax played with an otherworldly wah-wah pedal. It's an odd but enticing beginning because it's like no other sax sound you've ever heard. On the title track, he plays brightly textured horn lines over more clapping, subtle tribal vocals, and densely rhythmic acoustic guitar lines. The wistful "Love" shows off the more gentle side of Schwarz-Bart's artistry, as he combines woule rhythms with a wordless Brazilian vocal by Stephanie McKay and a graceful jazz piano solo by Milan Milanovic. This sort of jazz-meets-African vibe, colored with unexpected exotic elements, runs all the way through the mix — with a warm, tropical stop on the "Descent" — to the unusually toned closer "Lewoz," an odd-metered track based on the rhythm of the dead that blends woodwind and trumpet in a dance simulating the interaction between heaven and earth. As Schwarz-Bart follows his own multicultural muse, fans of progressive jazz and various world grooves will enjoy the journey the most.

Customer Reviews

Landmark CD...

I began hearing tracks from "Sone' Ka-La" shortly prior to its US release. I instantly knew that it was going to change some things in several seemingly unrelated musical genres SIMULTANEOUSLY (pretty uncommon nowadays - a time when most music tends to be fairly compartmentalized)... Jacques grew up in Guadeloupe, French Antilles - a land who's popular music in called "zouk." Zouk, or "Kompa" is a very specific brand of dance music that originated in Haiti before spreading its influence to the greater French Caribbean, most notably Guadeloupe, Martinique, Dominique, St. Lucia, etc... This music on "Sone' Ka-La" is unmistakably influenced by the sounds of Jacques' upbringing (an entire musical world in itself), but these flavors are only a fraction of what this project represents. Jacques is an "A-List," world-renowned jazz saxophonist, regularly performing with the likes of Roy Hargrove, Erykah Badu, Eric Benet, Meshell N’degeocello, Mario Canonge, James Hurt, Danilo Perez, Soulive, Ari Hoenig & David Gilmore, to name a few... All of Jacques' "envelope-pushing" musical tendencies converge with mind-blowing success on this musical suite -- "Sone' Ka-La" IS indeed a complete, cohesive work & should be listened to in order, from begininning to end (although the tracks do stand well on their own)... This is, to me, the work of a lifetime - Jacques Schwartz-Bart has created a masterpiece. -Ken Watters (jazz trumpeter / Summit recording artist / Bach artist / Jacques' bandmate - Tabou Combo / friend & fan)


This cd is one of the best purchases I made this year. It is a wonderful project from start to finish. Jacques Schwarz-Bart takes you on a beautiful musical journey. I find it to be very soothing and relaxing at the end of a hard day and just perfect for my drive home in traffic. I hope Jacques enjoyed creating this body of work as much as I enjoy listening to it. If you are a jazz enthusiast this is a must for your collection!

Simply the best

Simply the best album I have heard in years. A concept album. Every tune is a gem, and takes its place in the overall construction, like the movement of a symphony. The use of gwoka drums, while uplifting and driving the spirit of the music, creates a unique texture that feels like the wind bouncing over the sea. It is rare these days to hear musicians who dare to be themselves and try new ways. It is even more rare when it is done so masterfuly, both in the writing and the playing, and always at the service of a profound artistic emotion. A masterpiece.

Soné Ka-La, Jacques Schwarz-Bart
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Customer Ratings