Julian Gerstin Sextet to play house concert in Guilford

GUILFORD — The Julian Gerstin Sextet performs original jazz inspired by melodies and rhythms of the Caribbean and Balkans. The ensemble will release the group's new CD, The Old City, at a house concert at Wendy Redlinger's home at 2596 Tater Lane, on Sunday, Dec. 16, at 7 p.m.

The CD celebrates the world's crossroads cities, where immigrants and longtime residents mingle their musical traditions and new sounds emerge.

Listeners will hear cumbia from Bogota, danzón from Havana, mambo from New York, tsamikos from Athens, and other sounds from Istanbul, Sarajevo, and the streets of San Francisco - all expressed through the lens of contemporary jazz.

“Imagine people from different places finding one another in a café on a cobblestone street, and then what their children do with it all,” Gerstin, a composer and percussionist, said in a new release. “In these times, we need to remember that creativity happens when people of different cultures share their lives.”

Gerstin has been invested in such sharing for most of his life, studying and performing in Martinique, Cuba, and Ghana, and working with bands from Nigeria, South Africa, Iran, Puerto Rico, as well as in American styles from funk and jazz to zydeco.

A major influence was his two years in Martinique, studying drums and dance with the island's traditional masters. Gerstin is one of the few U.S. performers of Martinique's tanbou bèlè, a barrel drum on which the player sits, using one heel to change the drum's pitch as he plays.

“I learn these wonderful rhythms and styles,” Gerstin said, “and then I want to play them in a jazz setting, with contemporary melodies and room for improvisation. So I have to write the music.”

The Sextet brings together several of the area's top jazz musicians.

Anna Patton, clarinet, is a home-town favorite whose band Elixir tours nationally in the contradance scene.

Don Anderson, trumpet, has performed lead roles with the Latin jazz big band Creación, Vermont Jazz Center Big Band, and many other ensembles.

Eugene Uman, piano, is the director of the Vermont Jazz Center and has performed with such luminaries as Sonny Fortune, Sheila Jordan, and Bo Diddley.

Bassist Wes Brown is a Pioneer Valley first-call veteran and has worked with jazz luminaries from Earl “Fatha” Hines to experimentalists Wadada Leo Smith and Fred Ho. Ben James, drums, has stints with jazz great John Tchicai and Olatunji, among others, to his credit.

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