Label: Brownswood Recordings  

The delightful Daymé Arocena presents her interpretation of five covers including a bonus track on this EP. Arocena already sizing up to be a Brownswood national treasure, the Havanarian  infuses jazz and classical training with her spiritual foundations with a voice that is surely gifted from the gods and ancestors. Gilles Peterson set the musical challenge to Daymé with  label-mate and Brownswood family member Simbad the maestro on production, so the passionate music perfection comes as no surprise.

The orchestrator of an all-girl jazz band, composer and choir leader amongst all things is classically trained, Arocena became a principal singer at the age of 14 years with the band Los Primos. Her undeniable demeanor – she always dressed in white reflective of Santería’s iyawó initiates in their first year of dedication, credits her parents and her grandmother as her main influences.

First to get a remake of is Horace Silver’s jazz epic African Ascension Part 1: The Gods of Yoruba taken from the 1977 album Silver ‘N Percussion. Shortened to Gods Of Yoruba this is a worthy version, not comparing the magic of the original there is something mystical about this all of its own making. Just vocal skits here for Arocena it does beg the question what would happen if Silver was alive and these two met in a studio.

African Sunshine by Eddie Gale (Sun Ra Orchestra) is the next to get initiated into Daymé’s and Peterson’s special circle. Again an incredible interpretation of one great jazz song of the era, the powerful and emotive vocals of the Cuban siren just adds the most immense atmosphere – it left me completely floored. For once I think I’m lost for words. Not even hitting a vocal sweat and exuding so much musical prowess is the track El 456 from Alfredo Brito’s quartet Los Brito.

Adding a touch of niche Brazilian jazz is Raffaela Renzullis, Asking Eyes. Arocena’s tones are perfectly made for a track like this, her range just radiates personality and dynamism, I think I prefer this version to the original dare I say it. Now this was an interesting track to tackle and one which sees Daymé crossing-over into mainstream house dancefloor classic via Peven Everett’s Stuck. A drop in key and you get a sexy, gutsy contralto-style that would leave even Barbara Tucker running for singing lessons! Yes I said it – hot damn! It’s that good I defy you to disagree.

Bonus track Toi Mon Amour has Miss Arocena back in her jazz zone albeit with an air of en-Francaise sultriness. Her nodes float over piano and saxophone evocating an understated arousal as music meets voice. Another bonus is  Muy Cerquita de Ti (Close to You), or the classic Carpenters hit as we know it given the Cuban re-work.  The epic ten-minute sound explosion featuring Jose Pilar Jesus Dedeu, Luis Stock, Ruben Bulnes and Julio Padrón. The currents of rumba and the ancient traditions run strong here with libations to Yemaya the orisha who walks with Arocena.  The introduction is roots, midway is rumba and the end is libation and a fitting appreciation for the EP.

Review by Sandra Swaybe-Barrett

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Music | One Takes EP – Daymé Arocena