Monday, June 25, 2007
Henri Guedon - Early Latin & Boogaloo Recordings by The Drum Master (Comet, 2004)
Aside from his novelty status as an exporter of Latin music across the Atlantic, Guedon is an innovator in his own right. He referred to himself as "The Rootless Negro," a metaphor for his willingness to embrace black diversity in his music. Indeed, listening to Early Latin and Boogaloo invokes African-based influences encompassing a number of different contexts, from the drum work (and at times even the Afrobeat) of the African mainland, to the jazz and salsa of Americas, to the culturally-rich creole influences born in a Spanish-French hybrid. The fact that he was born in the Caribbean in the city of Martinique and would spend much of his career in Paris and New York does not simply coincide with the character of his music: it determines it.
Guedon was also a talented painter, his inspiration coming from the same source that fueled his music.
That's not, however, to muddle an incredible collection of Latin dance music with cultural analysis. Make no mistake: Early Latin and Boogaloo is a fantastic look into a fantastic artist's music. The album begins with some of Henri's more conventional songs, solid boogaloos, and his more mainstream hits (Faut Pas Pousser was a hit in France). For me, the real meat of this compilation and Guedon's style begins with Los Antillanos de Paris, beginning a focus on Guedon's descargas and extended jams. Vulcano is a funky, stop-on-a-dime scorcher that is in some ways more Afrobeat than Afro-Cuban; the bass-driven Machapia is perhaps the most overt example of Guedon's African influences, showcasing African drumming; Sainte-Marie, one of my favorites, bring out the funky bass for an extended jam with a hot sax solo. A few other "notables among notables" include Concierto de Mi Bongo, Marcel Song (bring on the flute), Negro Lucumi, and the slowed-down but still solid closer, Descaguajira. Pointing out favorites on a compilation like this, though, is ultimately pointless. Every song on here demands your full attention, and perhaps most importantly, your hip shakin'. Enjoy.