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Henry Cole and The Afrobeat Collective | Roots Before Branches

album review by John Powell

Henry Cole and The Afrobeat Collective | Roots Before Branches

Roots Before Branches starts off weird: sci-fi whirls surround sax, rain sticks, and steady hand percussion. The bass comes in with a spy-thriller groove and the sax amends into a below-the-bridge-in-Central Park flare. For the first time listener, please don’t let this fool you. “Aurea V.” is just a prelude to ten more tracks of funky afrobeat treated with modernization, soul, rock, and just a pinch of artsy experimentation.

For instance, “Trabajala”, (track 2) starts with a bang. Sizzling organ, thunderous drums, and a horn section booming with confidence make it wholly afrobeat. Henry Cole and the Afrobeat Collective is made up of drummer Henry Cole and a whole mess of wonderful musicians that take afrobeat seriously, but also have fun. Pulling on jazz and rock, the Collective has developed a wholly contemporary spin on classic afrobeat approaches, and here, deep within a soulful jam, it’s clear.

On the artsy side, on “Año 2010” slam poet Hermés Ayala chants over sax and light percussion in a totally new age fashion; however, the album isn’t all this one flow; it’s a combo platter, and this is just a taste. For that reason, it’s not a weak track. When the lyrics are done, the song warps into “No Eres Tu, Soy Yo (You’re Not You, I’m Me)”, and the jam unfolds into pure groove.

Several tracks stand out. “To Believe Without Seeing” is a highflying trip of horns and organ breaking everything down, ala Los Amigos Invisibles. It plays around with tempo, traveling into the depths of soul groove. If you ever wondered what a badass mofo’s daily soundtrack is, it might sound a little something like this.

“Comienzo (Beginning)” is also a scorcher. It leaves behind the more classic jazz and afrobeat ideas, developing an almost electronica jam, although delivered with real instrumentation except a synth. If Lotus went afrobeat it’d come out sounding like “Comienzo”. Persistent horns travel the spine of the album, here as tight as they’ll ever be, and the drum n’ bass aspect makes for a slinky club scene vibe.

But if you listen to one track off Roots Before Branches, let it be “Música Para Un Sueño (Music For a Dream)”, which begs you to roll down the window, drive a little faster, and soak in the sun. When it finally spirals out into another electronica exploration, it’s wonderful. You can tell the band is having a great time.

The album closes with “Solo”, Henry Cole’s moment to drum his way through three and a half minutes. Again, if this was what the entire album was like it’d be weak, but instead this is just the closer, and as Henry is the brains behind the operation, he deserves his moment.

Straight up: you don’t have to like jazz to get into Roots Before Branches. It takes the best elements of jazz, the free flowing quality, the solos, and then speeds ahead into new waters, anchoring deep in soulfulness. Put this album on, dress up, invite your friends over, and serve cocktails, and just vibe with the Afrobeat Collective.

It’s especially good for those that need a change-up in sound. Each song is very different from one another, and most people that get into this wouldn’t mind some more out-there musical experimentation. I don’t know; for me, it’s totally a fun experience.

Bottom line: Puerto Rican jazz drummer takes on afrobeat with a whole mess of musicians, making for a unique sound experience. High energy, good vibes, great tunes.


0 # Dr. Carlos A. Iramai 2012-02-22 12:12
Hi John, this a well- written CD review
Congratulations !!! My name is Iramain
(with "n" at the end), and I am a
Jazz Journalist, based in San Juan, PR
All the best and keep up the good work !
0 # Kaa 2012-02-23 12:55
Great to read how things are going for you and so relevant reviews! Success!
0 # ANGEL 2012-10-11 08:20


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