The word for takeoff in Spanish is despegar. It means to detach, to become unglued from your point of origin. I like this word because it implies being set free.
These six extraordinary musicians are in the throes of becoming unglued, detaching from the point of origin in their lives, in their careers, in their identities, and in their art. And like those avid plane enthusiasts (I confess to this nerdish behavior) who get unspeakable pleasure from watching planes take off, watching these young musicians, we get the thrill of seeing a seemingly too heavy object glide impossibly towards the heavens with grace and majesty. Vicariously or from the window seat, sensing and realizing flight is a thing of joy.
Sometimes in your life, your career, your identity, even in your art, when you’re far from your point of origin, miles above the turbulence, it can seem like you’re not moving at all. It is then that you forget you’re flying. One must never forget what a miracle, what an act of grace it is to soar, physically mentally, artistically and in our humanity. These great young artists are a reminder.
Incredible musicians, sure, precocious from the start, but really lovely human beings, the point from which all Art emanates, your humanity. Zack has always been an old soul, reserved, patient, Buddha-like, with a voracious appetite for numbers, rhythms, literature and the scholarly approach to solving the age old puzzle of what is the deep and profound essence of swing. A perfect foil for his brother Adam, whose tricky meters, impulsive temperament and architectural composing discipline are matched only by his unique voice as an improviser. Between the two of them there is a heartfelt bond of love and understanding. Of all my achievements, by far the greatest is that they grew up as best friends.
They also grew up being true friends to those they surround themselves with. I can’t help feeling a measure of fatherly pride towards these other young musicians whom my sons have befriended. They are all good and gentle souls, open vessels filled with great humanity, kindness, and the core value of all real artists, humility. The entire recording and rehearsal process was egoless and stress free.
Adam Kromelow and Raviv Markowitz are technically formidable musicians, but they are also uniquely gifted interpreters, having all the chops to play this very tricky music but the artistry not to overplay. Instead they let the music dictate what it needs from them and oblige they do, with personality, distinction and style. I had the privilege of recording these two before in a wonderful trio album that Adam K. made (The Adam Kromelow Trio “Youngblood”, ZOHO ZM 201202) and felt that same way. No matter what the situation, these guys are here to meet the needs of the music.
Livio Almeida calls us his American family, a distinction we wear proudly. His Brazilian birth family can take pride in the fact that he is a gentle, soft spoken human being who cares greatly about those around him, a trait that reveals itself in every note he plays. It never ceases to amaze me that he catches Adam’s nuances to a tee and they phrase as if they’ve been playing together their whole lives.
Gabe Schnider is really a third horn in the front line. This wonderful musician thinks contrapuntally instead of vertically. His logic and intuition are revealed in the way that he captures those same phrasing nuances that Livio does, but then the fire in his belly comes roaring out in every solo he takes. When he trades with Adam there is a kinship and respect that you hear. Imagine that: hearing feelings as opposed to notes.
I love these musicians, I love their commitment to the music, but most of all I love their commitment to the realization that they make music together in a way that they can’t in their individual projects. This is a real band with egos checked at the door seeking to create that best of all possible musical experiences, a true collaboration. There is little doubt that they all take a back seat to the great mandate: Art. Music first.
This is a piece written in all manner of tricky meter morphing but has an uncanny ability to feel like it’s in four, this is partially due to the fluidity of Raviv and Zack’s sense of pocket, it’s also the generous shaping of the melody and its effortless execution. A favorite device of Adam’s is the trade, first of trumpet and guitar, then of piano and sax, here it’s used beautifully, as much a part of the composition as the written notes.
Wrong Key Donkey
Carla Bley is a great American composer. A truly non-derivative and unique voice. I had the privilege of playing in her band when I was these kids’ age. Consequently, I exposed my charges to her work early on. We’ve grown up on her music yes, but also on her insistence that music and the materials used in its making are more important than genre and classification. The drum solo is beautiful. It is a great example of catching all the swing without being dogmatic.
The O'Farrill Brothers Band. From left: Gabe Schnider, Adam O'Farrill, Zack O'Farrill, Livio Almeida, Adam Kromelow, Raviv Markovitz. Photo: Jason Garner.
This was the Adam’s first composition that really impressed me. Somehow he manages to capture impressionist oil painting techniques with a palette of metal, string, wood and skins. I love interdisciplinary interaction and to me this is exactly what takes place. This is not so much a composition as a sound painting. Raviv and Gabe serve as solo guides to this exploration of gauzy dreaminess.
Action and Reaction
The intro here is pure brotherly intuition, with fatback, or manteca, or vonz or whatever you call it. This Livio Almeida composition is witty, dark, and somewhat Latin sounding with a funk edge. Adam K’s solo maneuvers the rhythmic map with ease. Adam O has a similar approach, sneaking around the meter changes with languid lines that belittle the syncopation. I love the Adams’ trading at the end, all angles and sharp edges.
This piece came about when Adam had a troubling afternoon, some father and son difficulty. Young man had to do some heavy soul searching. Some blues were in order that day and if you listen carefully you can hear angst and resolution in the piece. In some ways it is the most “inside” selection on the recording relying on a shuffle with a strangely metered “interruption” as if the presence of conflict is a balancing necessity in order to truly experience comfort. Deep thoughts for a young man, but wisdom for the ages. Both Livio and Gabe settle into this conflicted picture with ease and understanding.
It is achingly beautiful and the performance of this piece by these young musicians is nothing less than stellar. When I hear this I am filled. What more can I say? Words are meaningless. Close your eyes, turn off the lights and be filled. Nourishment for the soul.
This has the most “Jazz” like writing on it. It has all the earmarks of idiomatic writing but with an indisputable Adam-like quality to the counterpoint and the rhythmic “looseness” of the thematic material, defying genre. This is what attracts me to individualist artists, it’s not the arrow it’s the archer. I love the trades at the end between Livio and Adam. Strange ending (I love strange).
Upper Manhattan Medical Group
How can you not love a bunch of kids who think Billy Strayhorn is the bomb, whose idea of fun is sitting around playing Strayhorn tunes? What Adam plays on his horn is mature, inventive, technically profound and unique. Same thing can be said for Adam Kromelow. Oh, you can hear the influences, but they have it, that unique spark of originality, of non-replication. What Raviv and Zack lay down is no less impressive. Their groove is large, their pulse a massive entity with an elasticity that betrays their youth.
It would be easy to dismiss this as the rantings of a proud papa, but I have some experience in the field of music and can honestly say this composition is extraordinary. The performance of it is also deeply profound. This is chamber jazz, a true hybrid of written, improvised, stylized, insightful and deeply thoughtful music played by great artists. The trades at the end are so passionate and heartfelt, one is almost embarrassed to look. At the end of the day this is music so honest that it would be a masterpiece by musicians of any age.
The greatness of this moment for me is not in having raised these great musicians, but in having nurtured real thinkers. In having influenced thoughtful and sensitive young men, who are informed, socially conscious, politically aware and driven by their own search for truth in a world that is getting increasingly mediocre, mired in greed and self enrichment. In such a world it is nice to know that there are those who seek betterment, improvement, and growth, in themselves, in their community and in the listeners who are blessed to hear them take flight.
Mama Deane, we can relax now. . . . .(maybe).
September 26, 2012
Produced by Arturo O'Farrill. Recorded at Nola Studios June 27th and 28th, 2012 by Jim Czak and Bill Moss. Mixed at Nola on June 29th, 2012 by Jim Czak. Mastered by Bill Moss. Photography: Jason Gardner. Package design: Jack Frisch. Executive producers: Alison Deane & Joachim “Jochen” Becker.