Afro-Cuban chants meet the jazz stylings of Mark Lotz on this accomplished and fascinating fusion album.
Blues for Yemaya is a collection of African Yoruba songs of the Santeria religion, performed by jazz quintet Lotz of Music, and a line-up of respected Cuban musicians including the awesome Anga Diaz, Javier Campos Martinez, the late Amelia Pedroso and Jorge Nunez Menocal.
It takes the form of Afro-Cuban chants over deceptively simple hand percussion (in a variety of weird and wonderful time signatures) developed from the cult of Santeria, a meeting between the beliefs of the Nigerian Yoruba people and Catholicism, which occurred during the slave trade.
Some of the tracks are relatively untouched by Lotz’s hand, (incidentally or not the most inspiring of the tracks). ‘Arara Track’ is a great example, with just a light touch from Lotz’s flutes later joined by piano and kit, complementing rather than intruding on the Yoruba style.
The title track ‘Blues for Yemaya’ builds up fantastically, with the most effective combination of the chanting, drumming, and flute, piano blend and the hypnotic beat of the three two-headed bata drums lend the album its distinctive sound…
Lotz recorded several albums while out in Cuba in ’97 including Shango’s Dance and this album switches between the very jazzy, the very Cuban and the very African while managing not to fall into what Lotz described as ‘the salsa trap’, sticking well to the religious chant form. Each of the tracks is dedicated to an African deity or orisha, and each track is explained in some depth in the sleeve notes, definitely one of Mr Lotz’s strong points and a good starting guide to the uninitiated.
However, part of me wonders why this style needs a fusion with European jazz, but perhaps that is because I would rather have discovered Yoruban music unadulterated before hearing a fusion of styles, rather, I imagine, like people must feel if their introduction to Cuban music is Buena Vista Social Club.
www.lotzofmusic.com/Picadillo.php – some comments from Lotz on the making of the album.
For more on Yoruba music and many of the musicians involved in Blues for Yemaya check out www.afrocubaweb.com