In 2019, Felipe Salles put the finishing touches on an ambitious project. It’s an expansive work that blends elements of jazz, Latin American music, and classical music, all based on interviews he gave young immigrants about what it’s like to grow up.in the United States
Called ‘The New Immigrant Experience’, the album and the live performances based on it had a deep personal relevance to the Brazilian-born saxophonist and composer who came to the United States in his twenties. He currently lives in Northampton and teaches the Jazz Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Now, Salles has completed a follow-up project that builds on similar themes. His new album, Home is Here, out on Tapestry Records, celebrates the contributions of his fellow immigrants in the jazz community to America’s musical melting pot.
Conducting his 19-member big band, the Felipe Salles Interconnections Ensemble, Salles has created eight new expansions, each written for and inspired by a particular guest musician. and perform a solo on that song.
At just under 73 minutes, the new album follows Salles’ Zoom interviews with eight soloists, most of whom now live in New York City. During the meeting, he asked about their backgrounds, their experiences in the United States, and their musical careers.
Among the performers are celebrities such as Grammy Award-winning Cuban-American saxophonist and clarinetist Paquito Dribera and celebrated Caribbean-French saxophonist Jacques Schwartz-Barr. included.
“What I bring to these interviews is an anthropological interest and curiosity,” Salles said in a recent call. “I also wanted to know how they viewed their artistic identity.”
He and his ensemble will premiere the music on Saturday, June 17th at 7pm at the Bombix Center for Arts & Equity in Florence. The group will also play the new material on June 22nd at the National Sawdust in Brooklyn, NY.
In an interview, Salles said that after finishing “The New Immigrant Experience,” a labor-intensive endeavor funded primarily by a Guggenheim Fellowship award, he would work on another musical project specifically related to immigration. Said he didn’t mean to.
Salles based his work on the experiences of several “dreamers.” They are young immigrants who were brought to the United States at an early age, raised by illegal immigrant parents, and given legal status in the country.
“After that, I was like, ‘What am I going to do next?'” Salles said. “What is another way to pay tribute to the jazz community? I’m not sure.”
In reality, however, Salles had already created something of a template on his previous album, The Lullaby Project, with the Interconnections Ensemble, and his 2018 recording featured traditional Brazilian music. It was a reflection of his own life journey, arranged from a lullaby.
An acquaintance of his, Dribella, reached out to him after “The Lullaby Project” and told him that he loved the album and was interested in working with him in the future.
Remembering that, and considering other immigrant musicians he knew and had worked with, Salles began thinking of new projects to showcase their music more widely. It could be the last of his three albums related to the theme.
“It’s interesting because I often do other projects in three-part series,” he said. “But that’s not how I planned this. It just happened this way.”
In any case, the Interconnections Ensemble is a good forum for grasping the range of music that Salles composed for “Home is Here”, which includes several nationalities, including Brazilian, Mexican, Argentinian and Cuban. It incorporates the sounds of culture and tradition.
The ensemble consists of 5 trumpet/flugelhorn players. 4 trombone players. 5 woodwind players (sax, clarinet, flute). And a rhythm section with piano, drums/percussion, guitar, bass and vibraphone.
Salles said the composition gave him the flexibility to write longer pieces with multiple musical elements, from American jazz to Brazilian folk music to Latin American rhythms and classical touches.
For example, the album’s uptempo opener, “Re-Invention,” showcases Dorivella’s clarinet and alto saxophone, with elements reminiscent of Bach, but with many Latin styles, including tango and Afro-Cuban. are migrating more broadly. and Brazilian choro.
The third track, “Polymorphous,” contains brass explosions and punchy percussion, and features an expressive solo by Schwarzbart, who brings his own eclectic taste to the song. .
Guadeloupe-born Schwarzbart, also known as “Brother Jack,” attended Berklee College of Music in Boston and has earned accolades for reconnecting jazz with its Afro-Caribbean and spiritual origins.
Salles also reunited with childhood friend Brazilian guitarist Chico Pinheiro (who now lives in New York) on “The Promise of Happiness,” featuring a saxophone solo by Salles and melodic guitar playing by Pinheiro. ing.
“It was really nice to play with Chico again,” Salles said. “His style mixes with mine. We used to go way back and practice together a lot.”
This album is more than just an introduction to the instrumentalists. Megos Herrera and Sophia Rey hail from Mexico and Argentina, respectively, and provide vocals on the slow tunes “Two Worlds Together” and “Meridian 63” written for them by Salles.
And Salles pays tribute to flugelhorn player Nadje Noorhaus, one of the sextets he leads. Australian native Noordhuis adds a lyrical solo to another uptempo his number “Wanderlust” that incorporates touches of pop, R&B and swing.
“We found this to be a great project to work on,” Salles said.
The album was recorded in two days in Connecticut last spring, with some of the artists participating remotely. “There was no downtime,” he said with a laugh.
Still, it was a fulfilling time. All About Jazz said of the new Salles album: “This composer clearly knows how to tap into the unique talents of newcomers and familiar talented partners, and his latest release is a perfect example of his most cohesive instincts.”
For more information on Felipe Salles’ music, visit sallesjazz.com.
You can contact Steve Pfarrer at firstname.lastname@example.org.