Bassist Paul Beaudry & Pathways Put Their Own Stamp on Iconic and Obscure Pan-American Sounds
Bassist bandleader Paul Beaudry and his quartet Pathways – tenor saxophonist Tim Armacost, pianist Bennett Paster and drummer Tony Jefferson – have a joyous new album, Americas, recently out from Soundkeeper Recordings. A Pan-American jazz festival, the album eclectically and soulfully explores a vast range of traditional sounds from across the Americas, including tunes from Trinidad, Haiti, Surinam, Cuba, Nicaragua, Honduras, Argentina and Brazil. Inspired by music they heard during their 2010 State Department-sponsored South American tour, Beaudry and his ensemble lend rhythm, virtuosity and pure fun to a mix of alternately lively and moody new arrangements of folk melodies and some intriguingly obscure compositions.
Armacost adds a soulfully direct, Paul Desmond-inflected touch to the opening track, Lieve Hugo’s Maria, as it pulses along on a myserioso Surinamese kaseko groove – its eclectic blend of Pan-American and Caribbean styles is responsible for jumpstarting the adventure that would become this album. With its rippling allusions to a harplike, Colombian-flavored theme, the epic, luxuriant Paster composition Harmonia Mundi (World Peace) – the album’s lone original – evokes how rich the cross-pollination became throughout this group’s travels and features Armacost at his most carefree and lyrical. Jefferson’s suspenseful drums propel Lidia Handal’s blissful Honduran calypso romp El Bananero (The Banana Vendor), echoed by some unexpected ragtime riffage from Paster.
The lush ballad O Que É Amar, by Brazilian composer Johnny Alf – perhaps the father of bossa nova – gives Armacost a launching pad for a poignant, tender solo on soprano sax . The group goes all the way back to the 1800s to Cuban classical composer Manuel Saumell Robredo – one of the first who might be considered “third stream” – for the elegant El Pañuelo De Pepa, featuring a wry staccato Beaudry solo and a precise, almost courtly dance rhythm. D’leau, from the Haitian catalog of Nemours Jean-Baptiste, puts a nimble, bouncy new spin on an early compas hit, while the enigmatic Trinidadian mambo Every Time Ah Pass – in an arrangement by the band’s friend, Trini pianist Clive “Zanda” Alexander – adds a dark undercurrent beneath its lithe bustle. The dizzyingly polyrhythmic northern Argentinian dance Zamba Alegre dates from 1919, the band cooking up another smoldering bluesy undertone that ends on a potently pensive note. The album ends with Carlos Mejía Godoy’s Nicaragua Nicaraguita – an iconic song which is in Nicaragua what This Land Is Your Land is in the U.S. – featuring Armacost sailing over Paster’s vivid, pointillistic chords and a characteristically tuneful, nimble Beaudry solo. It’s accessible and lively enough to win over the Spyro Gyra crowd, while the richly inspired playing will likely keep purist jazz fans reaching for the repeat button on several tracks. Count this among this year’s most original and enjoyable jazz releases.
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