Sunday, January 27, 2013

Markus Schwartz / Monvelyno Alexis Vo-Duo Nou La lakou Brooklyn 2013

So I'm diggin' the name and wondering how in the world a duo that draws inspiration from the sacred rhythms and chants of Vodou music and the other cultural traditions of Haiti can pull off anything remotely close to jazz. Long story short is they can not. Instead we find Markus Schwartz and  Monvelyno Alexis coming up with their own artistic hybrid of "Mizik Rasin", jazz and rock into one of the most unique sounds and improvisational spins  you will find today. Their influence extends far past the Haitian borders as both are highly sought after sidemen from the Haitian music scene straight to the Big Apple. Schwartz and Alexis work so well together as Vo-Duo, largely in part to their complete understanding and willingness to embrace the past, present and future.

Nou La is the debut release for this duo which for this critic boils down to world music on steroids. The traditional form and functionality often associated with the more straight ahead scene is tossed to the side along with a strictly Haitian influence to create a new dimension of sound rarely heard. This textured and well timed release opens with an acapella composition from Alexis "Bonjou." This particular tune is deeply rooted in the more spiritual realm of Haitian culture and slowly transforms both the music and perhaps the listener to that of a more deeply personal level. "Frelele" is a rhythmic exploratory. The folk standard "Pale Mal (Bad Talk) embodies a riff on a more traditional minor jazz chord progression creating a dynamic tension and an ambient air of mystery surrounding this tune. The vocals on this release are spot on and in some cases provide an interesting counterpoint to the rhythmic melodies and lyrical intent of what can truly be called "roots music" while Wynton Marsalis along with a handful of others use the term to designate music that was brought to this continent from another country, Alexis and Schwartz sing about the real deal which is their land, their heritage and most of all their cultural upbringing.

A release like nothing you have heard before and may hear again. It is good to challenge your musical sensibilities whether you are a musician or simply a passive listener.

4 out of 5 stars!

Tracks: Bonjou; Alegba Gran Chemin; Pale Mal;; Kouzen; Wongol; Frelele; Simbi Makaya; Zilibo; Gede Men Lajan.

Personnel: Markus Schwartz: percussion, vocals; Monvelyno Alexis: guitar, vocals.