Sunday, August 21, 2011

Week #10 of Cuban Music at Martini Beach !

It's been quite a stormy week here in southern N.J. and I'm looking forward to the sunny days that the Weather Channel is forecasting for this week. Still, the rainy days gave me some extra time to practice and read about Cuban musical history and styles, and to plan the Gil Thompson Cuban Jazz Duo's performance for this week at Martini Beach in Cape May (Wed. 7:00-10:00pm). Every week we work to add something new to our repertoire of Cuban music and Latin Jazz. Actually the majority of our music was originally written for and performed by large groups. The percussion section of a band which plays Afro-Cuban music usually has at least three members who perform on the Congas, Timbales and Hand Percussion instruments( Guiros, Claves, Shakers,etc.) My percussionist Dave and I spend a lot of our rehearsal time deciding what are the most important elements in the percussion part of each number, and condensing it into something that one person can play. This means that most songs have as many as three (or more) distinct rhythm parts being played at once by one musician (not an easy feat)! On the Piano, I handle the Bass part (tumbao), the Melody and when possible , the Montuno (rhythmic piano part) or Orchestral or Chordal parts. As a two man band we find ourselves really challenged sometimes to make it work, but at the same time, we both love the musical freedom that it gives us. Needless to say, that we never find ourselves bored by any of our numbers, no matter how many times we have played it in the past. Being Jazz musicians, we are always discovering something new in every song as far as Melody, Harmony, and even Rhythmic style (Afro-Cuban music has so many to choose from) ! Of course ,we also have a great audience and performance setting at Martini Beach. With the ocean view and the room decor, it's easy to imagine myself playing in a 1940's club in old Havana (sometimes I almost expect Ernest Hemingway to come through the door). Maybe I watch too many old movies like "To Have and Have Not" and "Islands In the Stream", but I think that you get the idea. Well, I guess it's time to call it a day, but I hope that you will join us on Wednesday at Martini Beach for another evening of Cuban Music.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cuban Music at Martini Beach ,week #9

It's Sunday night and I'm already looking forward to performing Cuban music at Martini Beach on Wednesday! Every week as I practice and try to gain more knowledge and understanding of the many styles of music that developed in Cuba, I find myself reading and learning more and more about the island's history and people. Just as Jazz developed as a result of the merging of Western European and African elements, Afro-Cuban music owes it's existence to the harmonic and rhythmic contributions of these two continents. I find however, that the scale tips a little more toward complex rhythm in Afro-Cuban music. Even today the use of many authentic African instruments and and musical traditions remain fairly intact in Cuba. This is really visible in the style of music known as Rumba and it's three main sub-styles. My Percussionist, Dave, has been studying these styles for decades now and is quite knowledgeable about many of the rhythmic patterns and their significance in the music and social culture of Cuba. Some of the music that we perform already features more African based rhythms, as in the "Conga/Carnival parade" type of numbers that we feature every week. We are hoping to add, in the near future, a few more numbers which demonstrate other examples of these styles in familiar Cuban songs. Well, It's time for me to wrap this up, but I hope that you'll join us at Martini Beach in Cape May on Wednesday(7:00-10:00 pm) for another evening of great Cuban Music.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Week #8 at Martini Beach in Cape May !

Well, it's after midnight and I'm wrapping up another evening of practicing and arranging music for this week's performance at Martini Beach (Wed. 7:00-10:00 pm). We've been having a great time every week with the combination of Cuban Music and Mojitos ! If you've already joined us during the past two months, then you probably recognized many of the songs that we've played. You probably grew up hearing some of these on the radio or TV and perhaps didn't realize that they were actually composed and popular in Cuba before they made it here! During our performance you will probably recognize the more familiar styles; Mambo, Cha-cha, Guajira (like the song "Guantanamera") and Bolero ( soft,romantic ballads). We also include other Afro-Cuban and Latin Jazz styles during the evening. At or near the beginning of some of our sets you may notice some short "classical" sounding pieces, played on piano with a light,elegant percussion part. These are the Danzas and Danzons. These styles were very popular in Cuba during the 1800s to early 1900s. They were primarily used in "high society" functions and social clubs. They are an important part of Cuba's musical history, and their influence is very visible in the Afro-Cuban music and Latin Jazz of today. Well, I could go on and on about this exciting genre of music , with it's numerous styles and great history, but my clock tells me that it's getting pretty late, so I'll hope to see you Wednesday at Martini Beach for another night of Real Cuban Music with the "Gil Thompson Cuban Jazz Duo"!