US & Europe CD Release tour including NYC CD Release Party at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola at Jazz At Lincoln Center on May 12!
Inspired by tours in Indonesia, China, Japan, Israel and Europe, Oran Etkin's brilliant new album, Gathering Light,to be released on Motema Music on April 8, 2014, and featuring Oran Etkin-bass clarinet, Ben Allison-bass, Nasheet Waits-drums, Lionel Loueke-guitar/vocals and Curtis Fowlkes-trombone, interweaves melodies and rhythms from these regions with Etkin's fresh compositions. Etkin's music emanates from an openness to discovery in the world, in himself and within his music. On Gathering Light Etkin digs deep, taking inspiration from the depths of the jazz tradition that he grew up with, the New Orleans roots that inspired him to play, and ancient sources from around the world, to create venturesome music that pushes the art form in new directions.
From the opening bass clarinet notes of Gambang Suling" (Etkin's homage to Indonesian musicians who taught him this folk song), to the tender closing notes of When It's Sleep Time Down South" ("played in thanks for the man who first sparked my love of music, Louis Armstrong," said Etkin), this adventurous, intrepid artist reveals a depth of musicianship, character, and gratitude that is massively appealing.
Two years ago, Oran Etkin's music took him back to his birthplace of Israel. He wanted to share the beauty of the country with the Malian balafonist in his band at the time, Balla Kouyate, just as he was shown the beauty of Mali when he toured there, so on a day off they headed to Jerusalem. Etkin explains, there I heard a story, first told 500 years ago, that has stuck with me since. It tells of vessels filled with divine light that were said to have emanated from the eyes of the first primordial man, long before humans existed. The light was so strong that the vessels broke. Their shards scattered remnants of this soulful light into the darkest corners of our material world. The story poses this challenge to anyone who listens: in order to mend the world, it says we must gather these scattered points of light and bring them together. Etkin was drawn to this story as a focal point for his brilliant new album, Gathering Light, because it puts the fixing of the world in the hands of people, not in an external savior, and it says that the way to make the world better is to have the light of each culture come together and make something beautiful. This resonates with my feeling of not staying within my own cultural surroundings, but bringing who I am, and the culture I grew up with, into new situations with people who are different than me and finding something beautiful together," explained Etkin. This idea is also in harmony with lessons that Etkin learned from his mentors Yusef Lateef, Anthony Tuba Fats" Lacen, Dave Liebman, George Garzone (and others), that the blues is not just a musical form, but an approach to life, and that this was a music that grew out of the human instinct to find and gather light in our darkest moments.
Etkin elaborated, I didn't know quite what to make of this story when I first heard it. I continued on with my tour, and in the following months I was fortunate enough to be invited to perform in beautiful places like Indonesia, Japan, China, Belgium, Germany and France. In my travels, I saw the darkness of poverty, injustice and hate, but I also saw many sparks of light. I collaborated with local musicians whenever I could, learning some of their musical traditions and sharing my own music. This openness and interaction made me discover things within myself as well, affecting the music I created for my New York based trio and for my new album, Gathering Light."
My music is always simply an expression of who I am at my core, and if I play and write music honestly, all of my experiences and my influences come out through the music, I do not need to try to evoke certain influences or intentionally mix them together, they are simply there every time I pick up my horn or my pencil. As my mentor, the late Yusef Lateef would say, it is Autophisiopsychic music," said Etkin. Well having said that, I suppose there is just one thing I like better than honest autobiographical music, and that is music that is co-biographical. I am really very honored and blessed to have each one of these wonderful musicians in my life and to be able to tell our story together in real time through improvisation or spontaneous co-composition."
Etkin first played with bassist Ben Allison when Allison subbed in Etkin's Kelenia project (a band he has had for ten years with West African musicians with whom he recorded his debut CD for Motema). We found ourselves in constant musical dialogue, finding a lot of playfulness in the space between the beats. We did a few duo and trio concerts after that, and we eventually decided to invite Nasheet Waits to fill out the trio. Nasheet is someone I have known for a long time, and his sense of groove and openness fits right into this common language that Ben and I had found together," said Etkin. The two guests on the album are both long-time collaborators and have appeared on previous albums of Etkin's (Lionel plays on Kelenia and Curtis on Wake Up, Clarinet!). Etkin's elaborates, Lionel Loueke and I have played together since I moved to the city back in 2002. I had already been playing a lot in the West African scene for five years at that point, and I was excited to find a partner who has deep roots in that scene but also appreciates a very open approach to making music. Curtis Fowlkes was also one of the first people I played with when I moved to NYC as sidemen in a project called Antilles Connection, and I have always continued to love playing with him. His sound is so guttural and raw and always hits me and pushes me to put my all into every note.