Pianist Bobby Avey is an emerging star on the international jazz scene. In 2005, while a student at the Purchase Conservatory of Music, Avey was invited by NEA Jazz Master David Liebman to adapt and arrange art songs from the Classical and Romantic eras for reinterpretation creating a vehicle for improvisation. The project, which culminated with the album Vienna Dialogues, was released in 2006 on ZOHO to rave reviews. In 2011 Avey won the esteemed Thelonious Monk Competition for composition following on from his critically acclaimed debut album A New Face. His solo piano album Be Not So Long To Speak was released last year and deemed “a record of mystery, patience, imagination and clear design” by the New York Times. Avey is a current member of David Liebman’s ‘Expansions’.
Authority Melts From Me is Avey’s fascinating new album, an hour-long suite of music for quintet that was inspired by events surrounding the Haitian Revolution and based on rhythms found in Haitian Vodou drumming. The night before the slaves of Haiti joined the revolution in 1791 it is believed that a massive Vodou ceremony was held to seal their pact, the drumming rhythms playing a central role. Moved by these events Avey travelled to Haiti to visit and record a Vodou ceremony in the small village of Soukri, near the town of Gonaïves. Having transcribed this recording and that of an album by the drummers of the Societe Absolument Guinin from Port au Prince, Avey was able to analyse the relationships between different drumming layers and use them as the rhythmic foundation and starting point for Authority Melts From Me.
The suite consists of three key tracks that create the dark and atmospheric setting for the Haitian story to unfold. ‘Kalfou’, meaning ‘crossroads’, makes full use of the Haitian drumming rhythms that were used to open the portal between two worlds and facilitate communication with the spirits. ‘Louverture’, named after the foremost leader of the Haitian Revolution Toussaint Louverture, sees the piano take over the intricate drumming rhythms with a minimalist motif that provides the structure for the piece to develop. Avey finishes the suite with ‘Cost’, the haunting sax melody reflecting the human cost of the revolution, estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands. Tracks two and four, the exquisite piano interlude and stark drum interlude respectively, serve to perfectly balance the suite.
“The history of jazz has always been one of cultural variety and amalgamation of diverse traditions. I hope to be furthering that in a sensitive way by incorporating traditions of a country I respect. I hope to add something to the legacy of jazz that stays true to the aspirations of that music while incorporating a style that up until now has not been explored in this way. What I also hope is that this endeavor is creating further linkages in the relationships of the various branches of the African diasporic tradition.” – Bobby Avey