A journey into the creative process behind roots-based jazz composition
Jazz is as much a compositional art as it is performative and collaborative. It evolves first in the writing and arranging stage as an expression of the composer's craft, second in the interpretation of the work by selected musicians who each bring their own particular skill and nuance to the phrasing and solos. Some instrumental work is conceived wholly as a conceptual, improvisatory performance among a collection of co-writing musicians. In either case, the process is not dissimilar from the methods that have given birth to musical styles around the world for thousands of years. At its core, jazz reflects a creative meeting of the minds among people often from vastly different cultural and social backgrounds whose collective approach gives life to a melodic phrase or rhythmic pattern.
'Tempo Rubato' explores the creative process behind the album 'Forced Displacement' (Desplazamiento Forzoso) by the Samuel Torres Group. Torres, a percussionist and classically trained composer from Bogotá, Colombia, was inspired by the rhythmic and tonal qualities of bullerengue, an Afro-Colombian drumming style, in writing his piece. The resulting work — a 10-part jazz suite for 8 musicians — was debuted in a performance at the Rubin Museum of Art in November 2013, then toured in Colombia that same fall, finally being recorded and released as an album in 2015.
Sample of 'Forced Displacement' (Desplazamiento Forzoso)
Zoho Music released the album by the Samuel Torres Group in summer 2015, and it is available on Amazon. Here's a sample from the debut performance at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City:
II. Las Canta'oras (The Female Singers)
III. Velada de Tambores (Drums Soiree)
IV. Narrador de Espejismos (Narrator of Mirages)
V. Nino Pensante (Thinking Child)
VI. El Silencio Desplazador (The Displacing Silence)
VII. Lluvia, Luna y Voz (Rain, Moon and Voice)
VIII. Emilsen el Hijo de San Juan (Emilsen, the Son of San Juan)
IX. El Orgullo del Tambor (The Drum's Pride)
Samuel Torres's statement about 'Forced Displacement' - a project supported by a grant from Chamber Music America:
This piece is inspired by and dedicated to the victims of violence in Colombia caused by the ongoing conflict between guerrillas, paramilitary groups, and the national army.
During the writing of the piece, Torres traveled to Colombia in search of a musical expression that could represent what he was trying to say in his composition. He met with Emilsen Pacheco, a master percussionist-composer from the Bullerengue tradition.
Bullerengue is considered by many to be the root of traditional Caribbean-Colombian music, particularly the way it is played by Pacheco and his group in San Juan de Urabá.
The region of Urabá has been one of the most afflicted areas of Colombia’s violent history. Pacheco addresses this through his music; with his gentle spirit and musical vision, he is a poet and philosopher of his culture. Meeting with him became Torres’s principal inspiration to writing Forced Displacement.
Torres’s job as a composer was to "displace" different musical elements throughout the piece while maintaining aesthetic unity – just as people keep their humanity despite traumatic life changes.
The work is an exploration of the Latin jazz ensemble sound, interchanging roles between instruments to allow the percussion to be more melodic, and using melodic instruments in a more rhythmic function. Simple motifs based on the Afro-Colombian tradition are presented and then transformed to create new ones, each time getting more complex. This diverse instrumentation allows the folklórico or roots-music elements to be integrated with a contemporary Latin jazz sound. —Samuel Torres