Almost a decade has passed since Dap-Kings saxophonist, Cochemea Gastelum, released his first (and only) solo album, ‘The Electric Sounds of Johnny Arrow’. A lot of stuff happens during a decade doesn’t it? Indeed, 10 years of constant touring and the passing of two remarkable friends, Sharon Jones and Amy Winehouse, might leave someone thinking about their life, roots and a notion of “home”. In Cochemea’s case, California is home and roots include Yaqui and Mescalero Apache Indian.
“All My Relations is a way for me to explore my roots through music. Some of it is a memory that is imagined from a time and place I’ve never been or a musical impression of ritual,” Cochemea says. “I felt compelled to add the way I feel when I go to ceremony, when I feel connected with my ancestors, to the musical narrative.”
All My Relations is fundamentally a skin-speaking, percussion fest with a group of 10 (including sax, bass, clavinet) beating out their personal histories on congas, bongos, kanjira, tabla, shekere, bass drum, talking drum and dhol. It’s both a spiritual and a geographical journey taking us across Africa, India and the native and latin Americas.
“Maso Ye’eme”, is serpentine. It slides and simmers; clicking and ticking somewhere in East Africa before shifting into a banging percussion vs cobra-hooded sax trade-off. “All My Relations” is a stomping, pow wow drum driven chant with a touch of Moroccan gimbri and flute; its ganged call to everyone present at the pow wow is “Ain’t gonna build no wall”. Not sure what that’s referring to.
“Mitote” takes us on a tight and funky tabla, dhol and kanjira-spiced, Aztec dance with Cochemea smoothing the way with a fluid electro-sax melody. “Al-Mu’tasim” chants us through North Africa then “Seyewailo” breezes late 70s/early 80s easy-listening latin jazz across our chilled yacht deck.
“Asatoma” is a Sanskrit prayer whose rhythmic hypnosis provides reverie in celebration of life. It offers guidance to grow into the light, to accept reality, and to be guided from death to immortality. It’s the home of deep percussion, hand claps and “om shanti” salutations. “Sonora” is the Mexican home of Cochemea’s Yaqui ancestors and is a brief, pared-down, metronomic, minimal bossa with a lonely, yearning, wide-open-spaced sax.
“Los Muertos” keeps the space open wide, with a spirit-post-life, cosmos-venturing feel. Gloriously eerie. The Mexican huapango rhythms of “Mescalero” are deftly glided over by Cochemea’s so hip flute before serenity arrives via the aptly named last track, “Song of Happiness”; it’s a gentle, blissful sax light touch and offers satisfied, reflective relief following the album’s emotional treks.
All My Relations delivers 10 short bursts of well-travelled spiritual energy. It has the feel of a respectful, on-message, collective of empathic friends jamming for pure, soulful joy. It’s rhythmically hot and has some sweet, sweet sax/flute going on; an uplifting experience for all. Namasté.