Ches Smith and We All Break present the live premiere of their acclaimed record Path of Seven Colors. The album is a symbiosis of Traditional Haitian Vodou expression and au courant composition and improvisation.
Springing from drummer/composer Ches Smith’s decade-plus long engagement with NYC’s Haitian community, We All Break’s compositions incorporate and transform Vodou lead/chorus song structure, polytonality, drum conversations, and kase (“cah-say,” meaning “break”) within each piece. Traditional rhythms are the foundation of each composition, while that rhythm’s spiritual, political, and visual associations provide meaning and inspiration. Co-composer and master drummer Daniel Brevil contributes Vodou songs–both traditional and original–which marry with Smith’s compositions.
Sirene Dantor Rene — vocals
Lalin St Juste — vocals
Tossie Long — vocals
Miguel Zenón — alto saxophone
Matt Mitchell — piano
Nick Dunston — bass
Daniel Brevil — tanbou, vocals
Markus Schwartz — tanbou, vocals
Fanfan Jean Guy Rene — tanbou, vocals
Ches Smith — drums, vocals
Formed in 2013 by drummer/composer Ches Smith, We All Break is an ensemble at the crossroads of traditional Haitian Vodou music and au courant composition and improvisation. Master drummers Daniel Brevil, Fanfan Jean Guy, and Markus Schwartz–along with vocalists Sirene Dantor Rene, Tossie Long, and Lalin St Juste—team up with improvisors Miguel Zenón, Matt Mitchell, Nick Dunston and Ches Smith to create a syncretic music which dives deep into its sources.
Miguel Zenón is an alto saxophonist, composer, band leader, music producer, and educator born and raised in Puerto Rico. He is a multiple Grammy Award nominee, and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Fellowship. Zenón has released many acclaimed albums as a bandleader and appeared on over 70 recordings as a sideman.
Matt Mitchell is a pianist and composer interested in the intersections of various strains of acoustic, electric, composed, and improvised new music. He currently composes for and leads several ensembles featuring many of the current foremost musicians and improvisers. He is an anchor member of numerous significant creative music ensembles that integrate composed and improvised music.
An “indispensable player on the New York avant-garde” (New York Times), Nick Dunston is a Brooklyn-based composer, bassist, and scholar. As a composer, he has written for a wide range of artists of multiple genres and disciplines. In 2019 he was awarded the Van Lier Fellowship by Roulette Intermedium, which supported the world premieres of The Floor is Lava! (upright bass quintet), and La Operación (double saxophone trio + soprano voice).
Markus Schwartz Born in Copenhagen Denmark, the Grammy-nominated percussionist, recording artist and educator has devoted more than twenty-five years to learning the wealth and complexity of traditional Haitian religious music. Moving in and out of Haiti since the early 1990s, Markus followed the lead of Haitian percussionists on pilgrimages into the countryside to learn the intricate and powerful drumming styles of the various lakou—historic religious compounds—such as Badjo, Soukri and Souvenance. Settling in Brooklyn in the late 1990’s, Markus became a sought-after drummer at Haitian religious ceremonies, and was instrumental in creating the ground-breaking Haitian Jazz quintet Mozayik, bringing his informed arrangements of Vodou rhythms to jazz standards, Haitian traditional songs and Mozayik’s original compositions. He has since become a first-call percussionist on the NYC Haitian music scene, performing and recording with a diverse array of artists across many genres.
Sirene Dantor Rene is a singer, Haitian Cultural preservationist, and spiritual mentor based in Brooklyn, NY. She is the founder of Fanmi Asòtò, a Haitian cultural organization whose drum performance, community workshops, and herbal teachings are rooted in Vodou. Paying homage to the Asòtò drum, the mother of all African descended drums, their mission is to encourage identity building for all Haitians, with a focus on Haitian-American youth, who are the next generation of Haitian culture and Vodou.
Daniel Brevil was born into a drumming family. His father, Joseph Brevil, a respected community activist, houngan (Vodou priest), and accomplished drummer, was Daniel’s first teacher and source of knowledge, wisdom, and inspiration. As a young boy, Daniel would accompany his father to the all-night ceremonies in the Vodou temples of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where he was in much demand.
As a student, Daniel deepened his knowledge of Vodou, the religion of the Haitian people, and its drumming, dancing, and singing, as he attended Ecole Nationale des Arts, Haiti’s premiere school of the arts. He is the former Artistic Director of Artcho/Ayikodans Company and Tamboula, two of Haiti’s premiere folkloric dance troupes. He is the Musical Director of Rara Tou Limen Haitian Dance Company. Over the past 25 years, Daniel has worked to foster an understanding of Haiti, its traditions, and its distinct cultural expressions. Since 2014, Daniel is also the Ensemble Director of Haitian Drumming at Mills College in Oakland, CA.
“Fanfan” Jean Guy Rene is a master drummer of the Haitian tanbou currently working in New York. He regularly plays and officiates at Vodou ceremonies in NYC, as well as performances and community events with the NYC cultural organization Fanmi Asòtò. He plays with a variety of other groups in a wide range of musics, such as ensembles led by Andrew Cyrille, Malou Beauvoir, and Georges Vilson. He is an active educator in the NYC Haitian drum community and beyond.
Bay Area based vocalist Lalin St Juste performs with The Seshen, Rara Tou Limen, St Tropez, and her own solo material.
Tossie Long is a San Francisco native, vocalist, actress, dancer, facilitator, and performing artist. She is a GRAMMY-nominated singer on Best Children’s Album 2018, Rise Shine Woke by the Alphabet Rockers! Long’s voice has graced the albums of other highly acclaimed artist such as TuNeYaRdS, Tumbleweed Wanderers, Sh8peShifter, Pancho Morris and others. Long has performed in gospel choirs, show choirs, recording studios, street actions, theater and live band stages.
In addition to leading We All Break, Ches Smith/Craig Taborn/Mat Maneri/Bill Frisell, and his electronics-laden solo percussion project Congs for Brums, Ches Smith also works as a side musician, playing drums and percussion with Marc Ribot, Tim Berne, Mary Halvorson, Dave Douglas, Darius Jones, Kris Davis, Matt Mitchell, Jandek, John Zorn, Secret Chiefs 3, Terry Riley, Erik Friedlander, Dave Holland and many others. He collaborates in the doom-improv trio Tanks with Brandon Seabrook and Toby Driver, and the free jazz duo Good for Cows with Devin Hoff. He is a long-time student of Haitian Vodou drums and performs in religious and folkloric contexts in New York, San Francisco and Haiti. He has published an article relating his experience entitled “We All Break: a Crossroads of Haitian Vodou and Creative music,” featured in John Zorn’s Arcana VII.