Asante and Benito Gonzales


Bringing The Flame Home: From Havana to Africa

For years, I’ve been itchin’ to find someone to lay down a heavy duty Latin jazz CD, something closer to the Afro-Cuban roots than today’s fare. Then my friend Asante, the legendary master drummer from Ghana, discovered this red hot young lion of Latin piano—and promptly brought him north to the U.S. For two years, Asante and Benito have been honing a one-of-a-kind Latin jazz sound: a cooking Latin front line backed by all-African hand percussion. Up front, Joe Ford, the Fort Apache Band’s alto sax star, stokes the salsa fire alongside Benito’s effervescent piano. In back, nailing down classic meringue, rumba and mambo grooves, Asante’s thunderous five-foot carved drums lead his African hand drum congregation. All that’s spiced with hard-hitting timbales and rock-solid bass. The sonic impact of the big percussion and the wail of the sax are utterly spectacular. (#08632)

Benito Gonzalez, piano
Asante, drums & percussion
Joe Ford, saxes
Gavin Fallow, bass
Charles Asante, congas
Kwadwo Tawiah, congas
Kevin Davis, timbales



Koftown Vibe (Asante) - Listen to Sample
Cool Breeze (B.Gonzalez) - Listen to Sample
High Rainbow (B.Gonzalez)
Regards From Two Friends (Asante, B.Gonzalez)
Jungle King (Asante)
High Council (Asante) - Listen to Full Song
Africa Must Unite (Asante)
Scientific and Prophylactic Therapeutics (Asante, B.Gonzalez)
The Sea Never Dries (Asante, B.Gonzalez)





All Music Guide:
reviewed by Alex Henderson

The problem with being a jazz purist is that jazz was never really pure. Jazz was always multicultural -- back when King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton were starting out, early Dixieland was influenced by everything from blues, ragtime, and gospel to European classical to African, Latin, and Caribbean rhythms. So instead of trying to hide jazz's multicultural nature, musicians should celebrate it -- which is what Asante does on Bringing the Flame Home: From Havana to Africa. Asante, a drummer from the African country of Ghana, is joined by Venezuelan pianist Benito Gonzales as well as saxophonist Joe Ford (of Fort Apache Band fame), bassist Gavin Fallow, and various percussionists. Together, this group of African, Latino, and American musicians examines the African/Latin/Caribbean connection in jazz. The music is, for the most part, instrumental post-bop, but it is post-bop that makes extensive use of African, Latin, and Caribbean rhythms. Everything from calypso to Afro-Cuban guaguancó to Dominican merengue to Ghanian rhythms is fair game for these improvisers, whose multiculturalism always sounds organic rather than forced or contrived. And why shouldn't it? African rhythms had a major influence on Latin and Caribbean music, both of which ended up influencing jazz as well as a lot of modern African pop. Recorded in 2000, Bringing the Flame Home isn't innovative -- back in the '60s, there were plenty of post-bop and hard bop artists who showed their appreciation of African, Latin, and Caribbean rhythms. Nonetheless, this is a lively, unpredictable CD that will appeal to anyone who likes his/her jazz with a big dose of world music. ~ Alex Henderson

reviewed by Javier Quinones

Questionable claims from the liner notes aside, such as the unproven notion that the Cuban guaguanco can be directly traced to the Ghanaian agbadza, that rumba-which is a family of rhythms rather than just one-has some demonstrated connection to "the more ancient ashod," or that the Dominican merengue of relatively recent origin "is actually the traditional kpalongo rhythm of the Ga tribe," this CD of Afro-Latin music has a virally emotive, simple-yet-tight-groove.

Most of its charm derives from its live-to-two-track analog, endearingly dated feel and organic sound. At times, however, the immediacy and vivacity of such recording and miking techniques overshadows much. In "Koftown Vibe," for example, a shaker is so loud that moments of finesse from pianist Benito Gonzales, arousing saxings from Joe Ford and tantalizing marches and pluckings from bassist Gavin Fallow are either lost or seriously intruded upon. The latter suffers the most throughout the album, though his mark is left and felt nonetheless. Ford's stellar playing, however, makes him the torchbearer of the session. He's energetic enough to carry the band alone, obliging enough not to do so, wise enough to vary the lingo of his fare, and a concocter of phrasings with contemporary interest in a wide stylistic and sonic range. Gonzales features his encyclopedic chops with particular strength in "Regards From Two Friends."

Asante and his fellow percussionists are basic Afro-Cuban drummers of impeccable taste, shining best when playing closer to Africa than to Havana, New York, San Juan or even L.A.