On tour across North America, Europe and beyond with Antibalas, celebrating 20 years of making music together.
At the end of 2016, Angelique Kidjo asked me to compose and prepare horn arrangements for "Crosseyed and Painless" by Talking Heads.
I had grown up in the late 70s and early 80s listening to Talking Heads (thanks, MOM!!), recorded with David Byrne and St. Vincent a few years ago, and then served as the musical director for "The Music of David Byrne and Talking Heads" at Carnegie Hall in 2015, with Antibalas as the house band.
Little did I know that this would turn into doing horn arrangements for the entirety of Remain in Light, recording on the album with producer Jeff Bhasker, and touring the country and the world with Angelique, her band, amazing guest musicians (including David Byrne and Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads, Nona Hendryx of Labelle, Lionel Loueke, keyboardists Ray Angry and Jason Lindner), and of course, my brothers from the Antibalas horns.
We just finished up a run of shows on the West Coast, and the project will continue to travel the world and beyond after the release of the album on June 8, 2018.
For those who got a chance to see the show, THANK YOU!! For those who haven't, brace yourselves! It is powerful and poetic.
On March 30, Daptone Records will release the new album by Orquesta Akokán. It is among my favorite albums of the past few years--so much flavor, amazing arrangements and creative orchestration. Read more about them here at NPR program alt.Latino.
I was honored to have been asked to write the liner notes for the, which I'm including here:
Listening to the new LP by Orquesta Akokán, you can't help but feel the spirits of Cuba's musical giants radiating from the speakers. But honoring and caring for these spirits is not easy work, nor is it a task to be left solely to one generation. It is a collaboration of young and old; The elders know the traditions, the gestures, the incantations, but it is the younger generation that have the duty to learn, the strength to carry on, and the fire and soul to make new songs for new spirits.
In November of 2016, Michael Eckroth traveled to the hallowed Areito studios in Centro Habana with a stack of charts tucked under his arm. Arriving in the cavernous wood-paneled live room, he took stock of the players assembled by producer Jacob Plasse: a dozen or so of Cuba’s most ferocious and pedigreed wind and rhythm players from storied groups including Irakere and Los Van Van, the sensational veteran vocalist José “Pepito” Gómez, and a handful of seasoned young New York Latin music freaks. These musicians would transform his charts into the living, breathing document you’re holding in your hands.
An arpeggio tumbles sweetly down the keys of the piano, and the set bursts forth en masse with exclamatory trumpet blasts, introducing saxophones that immediately establish themselves as the center of a rhythm section. The arrangements carry the exquisite beauty, pathos, and playfulness of the renowned dance orchestras of the 1940s and 1950s who had recorded in this very room, evoking the ghosts of Arsenio Rodriguez, Perez Prado, and Beny Moré. And the robust, time-tested musical architectures of son cubano and mambo are present and skillfully honored through all nine of these original compositions. The melodious tres cubano, the swinging tumbao of the congas, the tight blend of vocal harmonies — they’re all there. Yet there’s something unequivocally fresh — saxophone sections playing montunos where you’d imagine a piano, an angelic, swinging flute you’d expect in a charanga recording, sones — vocal improvisations that have the seasoned flow and cadence of mid 1970s “salsa dura” singers, and of course, the appearance of the inimitable César “Pupy” Pedroso on piano. Somehow this synthesis of musical grammar and compositional styles, of Havana and New York, of old and new, makes perfect sense.
Akokán is a Yoruba word used by Cubans to mean “from the heart” or “soul”, so it comes as no surprise that a recording like this would find its way back to Brooklyn’s Daptone Records. For nearly a generation, the venerable label has brought us soulful music in a myriad of styles, made in the present, but with all the craft and flavor of the classic recordings of the past. In doing so Daptone has enshrined both the genres it honors as well as artists creating new works in the universal canon of dance music. It’s a perfect kitchen from which to serve this captivating baile between old and new — una sopa levantamuertos (soup to raise the dead), prepared with rhythm, with care, and above all, con akokán.
-Martín Perna, Antibalas
Antibalas Spring 2018 tour dates on West Coast, Colorado and Idaho. Teaching at Penn State Spring 2018.
Besides Antibalas stuff I have been doing a lot of writing and recording for the next Ocote Soul Sounds album.
In June I went to perform at the Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee with Angelique Kidjo's Remain in Light project. It was hot, muggy, and intense. U2's bassist Adam Clayton was there on the side of the stage digging the show. This was a big nerd moment for me as the first concert I attended was the U2 Joshua Tree Tour at JFK Stadium, Philly in 1987. (That's Adam of U2 front left, Angélique Kidjo center stage and me on the far right with the big saxophone).
A few weeks before that I was at Good Child Studios in Brooklyn working with producer Lawson White and Balún, an amazing electro-acoustic band from Puerto Rico. They wrote a beautiful song that featured the Antibalas horns.
When I'm not driving or sitting in a van on the highway, I have been doing lots of vegetable gardening--tomatos, kale, peppers, salad greens, eggplant, herbs, flowers, apples) (pics forthcoming) and building out my studio on the side of a mountain in Appalachian Pennsylvania.
I was blessed with the role of musical director (and flutist/baritone saxophonist) for this show at Carnegie Hall last Monday, putting together charts and arrangements for Antibalas, the ace house band for 18 of the 22 songs performed onstage that evening, among them:
- Living Colour "Rock Steady"
- Kenny Loggins "Until you come back to me"
- Melissa Etheridge "I Never Loved a Man"
- Ceelo Green "The Night Time is the Right Time"
- Taj Mahal and Deva Mahal "Chain of Fools"
- Ledisi "Daydreaming"
- Ruthie Foster "Natural Woman"
- Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave) "Don't Play That Song"
- Don Bryant (Hi Records songwriter/singer) "Drown in My Own Tears"
- Bettye Lavette "Ain't No Way
- G-Love "Think"
- Todd Rundgren "Since You've Been Gone"
- Sarah Dash (of Labelle) "Dr. Feelgood"
- Naomi Shelton "A Change is Gonna Come"
- Little Kids Rock "Respect"
- Rodney Crowell "The Weight"
- Antibalas "Who's Zoomin' Who"
- Full ensemble with Living Colour: "Respect" (Reprise
Here are some of photos collected from the roving eyes of the Internet.
A family portrait from backstage at @carnegiehall last night. @antibalas @livingcolourofficial @saunwillshine @coldiehawn @ttimmyjames @rajakassis @coreyglover @vurnt22 @willcalhoundrum @amayo66 @reinaldodgsus @kevinraczkaa @systemdialingrecords @stuartbogie @martinperna @kingmarcoos #arethafranklin #carnegiehall #antibalas #livingcolour #anticolor Not pictured: @willrast @morganjprice
Not just one of the greats, Aretha is The Great!! “The Queen of Soul wasn’t in attendance, but Aretha Franklin would have certainly been thrilled by the musical tribute paid her at Carnegie Hall on Monday night (March 6). Featuring a roster of estimable musicians performing songs recorded by the 74-year-old singer, who has recently announced her upcoming retirement, The Music of Aretha Franklin shook the rafters of the venerable auditorium.” - Billboard 📷 by Bobby Bank/WireImage ・ ・ #ArethaFranklin #QueenOfSoul #CarnegieHall #TheMusicOfArethaFranklin #Benefit #Charity #SarahDash #RodneyCrowell #CeeLoGreen #MelissaEtheridge #CoreyGlover #LivingColour #NYC #Soul #Legend #Respect #NaturalWoman #Antibalas #Gospel #RandB #SamMoore #NaomiShelton #TajMahal #BettyeLaVette #Ledisi #RhiannonGiddens #RuthieFoster #SweetRelief #MusicHeals
#anighttoremember #tribute #arethafranklin #carnegiehall #allenstone #antibalas #martinperna #bettyelavette #ceelogreen #donbryant #glove #kennyloggins #ledisi #livingcolour #melissaetheridge #naomishelton #richardthompson #rhiannongiddens #ronpope #ruthiefoster #sammoore #sarahdash #tajmahal #devamahal #toddrundgren
I don't know who decided I deserved these seats. Amazing celebration of Aretha Franklin. Among the people on stage: Bettye LaVette, @melissa_etheridge, @ceelogreen, Sam Moore, @livingcolourofficial, @antibalas, @thekennyloggins, @allenstone, and Taj Mahal #musicofarethafranklin #carnegiehall #musiceducationmatters
New collaboration with La Banda Bastön (Mexico) and members of Antibalas (NYC) for their latest album "Luces Fantasmas"
New 45 single release by Ocote Soul Sounds feat. Quantic and Chico Mann. Out 6/17/2016 on Wonderwheel Recordings.
Along with the Antibalas horn section, I'll be part of this tribute to one of my favorite singers of all time, Bill Withers. I'm honored to be part of an amazing cast of singers and musicians, including musical director Greg Phillinganes.
I've been working transcribing and arranging horn parts off the "Live at Carnegie"record and "Hits" for the four piece section including my colleagues Jordan McLean, Ray Mason, and Jas Walton.
MORE INFO: http://www.musicof.org/