DANAY SUAREZ / “Danay Suarez Mixtape”
“I can rap and sing, but my real desire is to be a jazz singer, to develop that style. I haven't done it because I don't have the musical skills, but I'll get there some day. I've got it inside of me." —Danay SuarezI’m tempted to act like an expert on stuff I don’t know much about. I mean, I like Ms. Suarez’s music a lot but I don’t know what she’s saying. I mean I can sort of guess some of it but I don’t speak Spanish and before a week or so ago I had never heard of her. She was born in Havana and unlike many of her peers, she did not formally study music and nor does she come from a musical family. She graduated from college in computer science. So why am I so high on this youngster? She’s got that je ne sais quoi quotient, that intangible you can’t put your finger on but your ears know when you hear it. Her first full recording is a four-track EP with one song (“Ser o No Ser”) going on for twenty-plus minutes. Before that session her discography was mainly appearing on a handful of tracks on compilations of contemporary Cuban music put together by Britain’s Gilles Peterson who visited Cuba looking to investigate emerging Cuban artists. Danay was one of the people who most impressed Peterson. Of her EP, Danay says they were in the studio and just started playing and she started singing and it kind of just happened. A major, if not “the” major, reason the session worked so well is musical director, co-producer, and featured pianist Roberto Fonseca who is nothing short of brilliant in providing depth, complexity and passionate accompaniment. Indeed, it would have been appropriate to have him share the billing on the album cover. This session has the feel of a live recording. Some folk often wonder whether besides audience applause is there a significant difference between concert and studio recordings. In acoustic jazz oriented music there is a big difference that is not often apparent. In concert there are no second takes. What you get is what was played. In the studio, even if you bring in people to simulate a performance audience, in the back of everyone’s mind is that you can always do a selection over if something goes amiss or if the musicians feel they can do better on another go round. That safety net of doing it over actually inhibits rather than encourages quality improvisation. Why? Because everyone believes there’s always a second shot and thus the musicians tend to hold something in reserve in case there is a need for another go round. Indeed, between false starts, ensemble miscues and ragged endings, studio sessions are notorious for multiple takes. Indeed, because of advances in sound engineering, it is not uncommon to piece together different takes to make one version, or to have someone do a solo again or “fix” an ensemble sour note or two. There’s nothing like the all or nothing atmosphere of performance—sure, you don’t always get the best but with professional musicians who take pride in their performance, what is recorded is usually better than anything done in the studio. Of course, there are exceptions, but they are just that exceptions. So anyway, Danay stretches out and sings with the fullness of making a final life statement. Except, there is also one remix included on this Mixtape: “Think Twice” from a Peterson compilation with the remix by 4hero. I am awed by what 4hero has accomplished. The original unfurls like an afro-cuban jam session with some hip hop inserted. The remix sounds like something you might hear on the radio. And I suppose this illustrates one of the main difference between pop and jazz. As much as I dig jazz, I also love the work of 4hero. Their remix of Danay’s cover of a J Dilla joint is stellar. On the other hand, if you know that Danay has also made a name for herself as a rapper, then you can see that she is comfortable in both worlds even though jazz is the direction she chooses to pursue. We’ll see. If Danay gets more production work from folk of the caliber of 4hero she may find herself encouraged to think twice about pursuing jazz. Personally I hope she develops as a jazz singer who also raps, rather than as a rapper who dabbles in jazz. But, on the basis of the material included on this Mixtape, either which way she chooses, she’s good to go. —Kalamu ya Salaam Danay Suarez Mixtape Playlist Gilles Peterson Presents 01 “Lagrimas de Soledad (No Existen Palabras)" 02 “Think Twice” 03 “Son” – (not commercially available) The Havana Cultura Sesssions 04 “Ser o No Ser” 05 “Hay Un Lugar” Gilles Peterson Presents Havana Cultura: Remixed 06 “Think Twice (4hero Remix)”
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