Home Is Here, due out May 12, 2023 via Tapestry Records, features vibrant compositions inspired by and featuring Melissa Aldana, Paquito D’Rivera, Magos Herrera, Chico Pinheiro, Jacques Schwarz-Bart, Sofia Rei, Yosvany Terry and Nadje Noordhuis.
“Felipe Salles has truly blended the best of several worlds in his music.” – Frank Bongiorno, The Saxophone Journal
“The nineteen-piece Interconnections Ensemble… has no trouble navigating [Salles’] often intricate scores, whose essence ranges from Baroque to modern classical motifs, and from jazz to Brazilian folk music.” – Jack Bowers, All About Jazz
Since founding the Interconnections Ensemble in 2016, saxophonist/bandleader Felipe Salles has used the group not just as a showcase for his powerful big band compositions but as a vehicle for illuminating diverse perspectives on the immigrant experience. The ensemble’s 2018 debut, The Lullaby Project, reflected his personal journey through the lullabies of his native Brazil, while its 2020 follow-up, The New Immigrant Experience, channeled anger and frustration over the tempestuous political climate into a tribute to “Dreamers” – the hundreds of thousands of people protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
With Home Is Here, his third album with the Interconnections Ensemble, Salles draws inspiration from his fellow immigrants in the jazz community. The album features eight majestic new compositions, each written for and directly inspired by an individual soloist.
Salles chose a diverse and compelling cast of special guests for the recording, spanning an array of nationalities, cultures, traditions, generations, and most importantly, stories: legendary saxophonist/ clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera (Cuba); vocalist Sofia Rei (Argentina); saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart (Guadeloupe); flugelhornist Nadje Noordhuis (Australia); vocalist Magos Herrera (Mexico); saxophonist/percussionist Yosvany Terry (Cuba); guitarist Chico Pinheiro (Brazil); and saxophonist Melissa Aldana (Chile).
In order to tailor his new pieces for the featured artists, Salles began by selecting a cross-section of the jazz scene whose work he admires and connects with, and whose stories intrigued him for their parallels and differences from his own. He then arranged Zoom interview sessions (availability wasn’t much of an issue during the height of the pandemic) and spoke to each of his subjects at length. Finally he drew from those conversations to craft a composition that embodied each individual’s personal journey.
“There’s a bit of an anthropological curiosity underneath this whole project,” Salles says. “The conversations were fascinating and helped me find ways to write music that felt connected with people’s personalities and stories.”
Opener “Re-Invention,” for instance, is a play on words drawn from a comment Rivera made about musicians constantly having to reinvent themselves. Salles ran with that idea while contemplating the breadth of the woodwind master’s storied career; he referenced Rivera’s classical technique by bookending the piece with segments hinting at a Bach invention, and steering through sections inspired by tango, Brazilian chorinho and Afro-Cuban traditions.
Rei penned the lyrics to “Meridian 63,” which Salles wrote with the singer’s experiences in jazz, classical, pop and folk musics in mind. The complex piece utilizes Argentinean influences and a hybrid groove leading into a stunning vocalese in dialogue with the deft band members. Schwarz-Bart used the word “Polymorphous” to describe his approach to fusing his roots and influences, sparking a polyrhythmic piece that diverges into multiple directions.
Having worked extensively with Noordhuis in a variety of contexts, Salles imagined “Wanderlust” as a showcase for her vibrant lyricism, as well as a showcase for a gifted artist who has also been a tireless advocate for women in jazz. The sensuous “Two Worlds Together” is richly orchestrated around the timbre of Herrera’s voice, a portrait, Salles says, of, “a cultural personality, someone who is very much Mexican and also very much a New Yorker.” Deeply rooted in Afro-Cuban rhythms, “World Citizen” spotlights Terry’s heritage as well as his modern jazz sound, while “Storytelling” builds on Aldana’s narrative sense and dauntless virtuosity. Pinheiro, a childhood friend of Salles from Brazil, summed up the difference between jazz and Brazilian music, saying the former is about the desire for power (bandleading, soloing, technique) while the latter focuses on “The Promise of Happiness.” The old friends are reunited through Salles’ only solo on the album, a tender, lithe soprano turn.
Salles fulfills that promise throughout Home Is Here, creating a breathtaking suite of music highlighted by remarkable playing and vivid emotion. As represented by the cover image of a snail carrying its shell on its back, the life of a musician is an inherently nomadic one. Perhaps, Salles muses, that makes them particularly amenable to adopting and integrating into new homes. “As musicians, we make our home wherever we can do our thing the way we want to do it,” he says. “So I wanted to explore the question of what ‘home’ means and how that affects our music. And at the same time, how does the music affect our perspectives? I wanted to think about how the elements of modern jazz come from immigrant perspectives and contributions.”
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A native of São Paulo, Brazil, Felipe Salles has been an active musician in the US since 1995, where he has worked and recorded with prominent jazz artists including Randy Brecker, Paquito D’Rivera, David Liebman, Melissa Aldana, Lionel Loueke, Jerry Bergonzi, Chico Pinheiro, Magos Herrera, Sofia Rei, Yosvany Terry, Jovino Santos Neto, Oscar Stagnaro, Luciana Souza, and Bob Moses. Salles is a 2018 Guggenheim Foundation Composition Fellow, a 2021 South Arts Jazz Road Creative Residency Grant Fellowship recipient, a 2015 NALAC Fund for the Arts Grant winner, a 2009-2010 winner of the French American Jazz Exchange Grant, and a 2005-2006 winner of the Chamber Music America New Works: Creation and Presentation Grant Program, grants sponsored by The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. He previously released nine critically acclaimed recordings as a leader, including Departure (2012), Ugandan Suite (2014), Varanda (2017), Tiyo’s Songs of Life (2022), and, with the Interconnections Ensemble, The Lullaby Project and Other Works for Large Jazz Ensemble (2018) and The New Immigrant Experience (2020). Salles is also a member of the New World Jazz Composers Octet, Kyle Saulnier’s Awakening Orchestra, Alex Alvear’s Mango Blue, and Gonzalo Grau’s Grammy-nominated La Clave Secreta. He is a Professor of Jazz and African-American Music Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he has taught since 2010.
Felipe Salles Interconnections Ensemble – Home Is Here
Tapestry Records – 76032 – Recorded April 30-May 1, 2022
Release date May 12, 2023
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