David Schumacher – Smoke In The Sky (2024) [Official Digital Download 24bit/44,1kHz]

David Schumacher – Smoke In The Sky (2024)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 53:29 minutes | 589 MB | Genre: Contemporary Jazz, Jazz
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Cellar Live

An accomplished versatile virtuoso baritone saxophone player, Chicago native Dave Schumacher has been a mainstay on the New York jazz scene for more than forty years. His big, bold baritone first came to international attention during the eighties, spending much of those years touring the world with Lionel Hampton’s Orchestra. Schumacher garnered further notice following that with nearly two decades as a member of the orchestra of Harry Connick, Jr. In the 90’s he also toured with T.S. Monk’s Monk on Monk band and the Tom Harrell Octet, as well as freelance work with many others in New York and on the road.

It was during those early days with Hamp that Schumacher began to become immersed in the history of Afro-Cuban music, the result of rooming on tours with the band’s percussionist, conguero Sam “Seguito” Turner. He says “I was aware of the recordings of Bird with Machito/Mario Bauza and Dizzy Gillespie with Chano Pozo while still in high school but did not really get deeper into the music until hooking up with Sam on Hamp’s band. Sam turned me on to the traditional music of Arsenio Rodriguez, Cachao, Tata Guines, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, Los Papines and the New York sounds of Machito, Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri and Ray Barretto.” That he has thoroughly absorbed the sophisticated rhythms evinced in the groups of those maestros and combined them with his own mastery of the jazz idiom is clearly evident on this, his fourth outing as a leader.

While Schumacher has given listeners a taste of his command of the Latin Jazz language on his previous efforts, here for the first time, leading his current working band that he’s dubbed Cubeye, he offers a full album’s worth of songs that advance the genre with an exciting 21st Century sensibility. Assisting him in firing up the music on the disc by turns heated and warm, are likeminded “musically bilingual” players – trumpeters Josh Evans and Jesus Ricardo, tenor and soprano saxophonist Peter Brainin, pianist Manuel Valera, bassist Alex “Apolo” Ayala, drummer Joel Mateo and percussionist Mauricio Hererra – each one of whom is well known for being equally skilled in playing both jazz and Latin music as one can witness throughout. Drawing upon an aggregate of experience performing with the likes of Arturo O’Farrill, Hilton Ruiz, Papo Vazquez, Yosvany and Yunior Terry, Melvis Santa and the Mambo Legends Orchestra, their combined talents are instrumental in bringing Schumacher’s cross-cultural vision to fruition.

Schumacher freely admits that two of the biggest influences on Cubeye’s musical concept are Jerry Gonzalez & The Fort Apache Band and Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. The saxophonist recalls traveling with the latter’s big band to Japan in 1987 to perform at the Mt. Fuji Jazz Festival as one of the greatest highlights of his lengthy career. From the very start of “Smoke In The Sky”, the impact of those iconic bands on the group is clearly evident with blasting horns hitting hard in the Messenger tradition on top of the pulsating percussion that hearkens to Fort Apache’s relentless rhythmatism. Dave notes, “I was hearing the melody and harmony of the date’s fourth track, my ballad “(No More) Smoke In The Sky”, over an up-tempo groove. Manuel created this dramatic re-imagination of the original song.”

Dave’s arrangement of “You Know It’s Wrong” by fellow Chicago saxophonist Eddie Harris has something of the pensive sophistication of the great Wayne Shorter in its engaging melody that is played over Herrera’s traditional bata rhythms before he digs in with a soulful solo, followed by Ayala’s bass interlude leading into the incendiary conga solo over vamping that brings the melody back in. Dave remembers “I first heard Eddie play this, originally a 4/4 shuffle, at Sweet Basil in the mid 80’s. It always stuck in my mind and I reframed it in a 6/8 groove.”

Valera’s tour de force arrangement of the AfroCuba de Matanzas classic “Caridad” begins with Schumacher’s brawny baritone blowing mournfully, at first unaccompanied then backed by bata drums, before the band joins in with a slow fanfare that prefaces its recitation the enchanting melody and the incendiary soloing that follows. Dave recalls “I heard AfroCuba de Matanzas live in New York twice in the mid 90’s and they had a huge impact on me. “Caridad” is a composition that I really dug from their Raices Africanas album.”

Dave proves himself to be an authoritative balladeer on his brooding “(No More) Smoke In The Sky.” He recalls the distressing tale behind the emotive song’s title. “This ballad was inspired by an image that came to my mind while on tour in Los Angeles in 1992. It was on the fateful day that the verdict was released in the Rodney King case and the city started to ignite. As I saw smoke rising above the California sky, I had a flashback to a younger self and an image I had never thought about. I suddenly saw myself on the back porch of my childhood apartment in Chicago in 1968 looking at smoke rising in the sky above the West side of the city. As an 8 year old I had no understanding of the gravity of that day which was the day that Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.”

“El Dilema de Chegüi Metralla” is Dave’s tribute to Hector Davila (aka Chegüi Metralla), his close friend and brother, the album’s co-producer and a talented musician, composer and arranger in his own right. It’s a straight ahead swinger in the Messenger tradition that features, as Blakey would say, “no one in particular,” showcasing each of the band member’s soloing strength.

The date’s three final tracks display Dave’s talents as an imaginative arranger, beginning with Stanley Cowell’s “Cal Massey,” the late pianist’s tribute to the largely unheralded Philadelphia trumpeter. He asserts, “One of my absolute favorite albums is Clifford Jordan’s Glass Bead Games on Strata East. I have spent countless hours listening to this record over the years and love many of the compositions on it. I was hearing “Cal Massey” in this groove for Cubeye and created the arrangement.”
Dave’s dynamic arrangement of McCoy Tyner’s “Walk Spirit Talk Spirit” gets started with an extended Ayala bass solo followed by a piano and percussion intro before the horns take off on the well known melody for an adventurous excursion. “I bought McCoy’s Enlightenment as a freshman in high school in 1974 and “Walk Spirit Talk Spirit” became an immediate favorite of mine,” he recalls. “I hadn’t thought about playing it for decades, but as I formed Cubeye it immediately came to mind. I wrote the arrangement and with the additional input from the cats in the band we came up with this rumba version.”

The undertaking of re-imagining the song “Poinciana” might be thought of as a fool’s journey, considering just how deeply embedded in the jazz psyche Ahmad Jamal’s interpretation of the Nat Simon composition, but Dave rises to the occasion. He admits, “Of course Ahmad Jamal’s classic version is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of “Poinciana,” but I had also been listening to a killin’ live Sonny Rollins bootleg playing it in a different vibe. My arrangement is a confluence of influences; from Israel Cachao Lopez’s “Descarga Cubana” from Cuban Jam Sessions in Miniature, Frank Emilio’s “Gandinga, Mondongo y Sandunga” as well as the impact of the Sonny Rollins and Ahmad Jamal versions on me.”

Dave concludes “The vision for this group had its seed in my musical life’s experience and interests but this extremely talented group of cats have brought this vision to life. Without their high level of artistry, musical chemistry and in no small part their input to the overall settings of the music created, this musical vision that I call Cubeye would not live as it does!”

1-1. David Schumacher – Smoke In the Sky (06:29)
1-2. David Schumacher – You Know It’s Wrong (03:24)
1-3. David Schumacher – Caridad (06:47)
1-4. David Schumacher – (No More) Smoke In The Sky (04:11)
1-5. David Schumacher – El Dilema de Chegüi Metralla (07:21)
1-6. David Schumacher – Cal Massey (05:07)
1-7. David Schumacher – Walk Spirit Talk Spirit (11:04)
1-8. David Schumacher – Poinciana (09:02)

Dave Schumacher – Baritone Saxophone
Josh Evans – Trumpet (1, 5-8)
Jesus Ricardo – Trumpet (2-3)
Peter Brainin – Tenor, Soprano Saxophones (1, 5-8)
Manuel Valera – Piano
Alex “Apolo” Ayala – Bass
Mauricio Herrera – Congas, Iyá, Itótele, Okónkolo, Chekeré
Joel Mateo – Drums, Bells


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