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About Jacques Coursil and Trails of Tears
So much of the world's cultural legacy has been branded by the oppression, forced expulsion, and colonization inflicted upon indigenous populations. Jazz music was a product of the African Diaspora and continues to be a powerful emblem of ethnic identity in conscientious practitioners. One such musician, trumpeter/composer Jacques Coursil, presents a touching serenade for the victims of Amerindian Diaspora, and the subsequent enslavement of Africans in the territory stolen from the Amerindians, on his new recording, Trails of Tears.
Coursil presents a program of seven compositions embodying the voice of the devastated Cherokee on the tribe's decimation and removal from their native home followed by the African response as slaves were taken from Africa to work on the newly gained territories. His lilting trumpet provides a haunting narrative through music performed with two different ensembles; Cadences Libres, featuring keyboardist Jeff Baillard, bassist Alex Bernard and drummer Jos Zbina, and Free Jazz Art, featuring saxophonist Mark Whitecage, clarinetist Perry Robinson, pianist Bobby Few, bassist Alan Silva and drummer Sunny Murray.
The recording begins by setting a mournful tone with the dirge like composition, 'Nunna Daul Sunyi,' with floating trumpet melody over a spare, ringing background, reflecting a scene of tearful acceptance as the Cherokee begin the fateful exodus. 'Tagaloo, Georgia' and 'Tahlequah, Oklahoma' represent the beginning and end of the Cherokee journey. 'The Removal Act I' and 'Act II' are free compositions featuring the Free Jazz Art ensemble and moving individual performances by these remarkably expressive musicians. The recording resolves with 'Gore' and 'The Middle Passage,' both lovely stripped down melodic pieces that really resonate.
Born in Paris of Martinican descent, Coursil forged his own path to discover his unique sound and approach to music. He studied modern classical and classic jazz forms as a growing trumpet player and composer. In 1965, Coursil left for New York City to further his musical development in the free jazz scene where he established himself in performance with luminaries like Sunny Murray, Perry Robinson, and saxophonist Frank Wright. After being featured on recordings of Murray and Wright, Coursil was able to record two albums for the BYG label in 1969 (Black Suite and Way Ahead).
After 10 years in the United States, Coursil moved back to France where he earned a PhD and began to teach literature and linguistics at the University of Caen in Normandy. He taught in Martinique during the mid-1990s and then at Cornell University for three years beginning in 2002. Coursil had continued to work on his trumpet playing but began recording in earnest after former student, McArthur genius, composer, saxophonist John Zorn contacted him to record for his label entitled Minimal Brass (Tzadik, 2005). He followed this with Clameurs (Sunnyside/Universal France, 2007): a study of Creole, French and Arabic poetry set to music.