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Blue Tres by Benjamin Lapidus

Often confused for Puerto Rican, Guitarist and Tres Virtuoso Benjamin Lapidus is in fact from a second generation Jewish European family, but he grew up in what he says is the largest Caribbean City in the world - the island of Manhattan. There he was exposed to the full spectrum of the African Diaspora including the USA’s diasporic music Jazz. In the fourth release from his group Sonido Isleño, the sound of the Island references New York City and the Islands of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Jamaica and The Dominican Republic.

For the last 8 years since the forming of Sonido Isleño, Benjamin Lapidus has set himself several challenges. One was to create a percussive folkloric based Jazz music or as he says " To put Jazz into the Folklore instead of the other way around." He was tired of having the drums play a supportive role as is done in much of contemporary Latin Jazz. After all he says, " The drums are melodic". In Sonido Isleño, folklore is the base and from that base opportunities are created to improvise within the medium. In order to move forward into his new vision he had to step back into the roots of Cuban musical tradition traveling to Guantanamo in Oriente, where there is a decided Haitian influence, in order to study Changüí, Palo and other little played Cuban genres.

Another great challenge was to create a solo improvisatory music for the Tres, an instrument that traditionally is never heard in that context. In the latest Sonido Isleño recording "Blue Tres’, Lapidus has done for the Tres what Adolphus Sax did for the Saxophone and Josef Horak did for the Bass Clarinet, he has created a new solo instrument.

In a display of compositional skill he has structured original music for the Guitar and Tres which features some of New York’s finest including Jesus Alvarez, William Bausch, Paul Carlon, Fancisco Javier Cotto, Michael Molina, Harvie S., Felix Sanabria, Hector Torres and Pedro Pablo Martinez.

In " Zen and The Art of Finding Gigs in New York City" Lapidus uses an abstract and dissonant melody based on a Mozambique rhythm which provides a showcase for solos. In "El Nino Rivera on 52nd Street" he pays tribute to Cuban Tres player Andres’ Echevarria and imagines him playing Be-Bop.

In "Coltrane Con Changüí " he also pays tribute to one of the greatest Artists of the 20th Century, John Coltrane. In works like "Kulu Se Mama" "Africa" and most of Coltrane’s final work, his obsession with drums was deep and powerful. It is easy to imagine that if Coltrane had survived the tragic illness that took his light from us, that inevitably he would have moved into a deeper study of Cuban rhythms. For this tribute Lapidus uses Changüí, the grandfather of Cuban Son from Oriente, a form that doesn’t use clave and in which the Tres and voice always move together in unison. The title cut "Blue Tres" also references Coltrane’s "Blue Train" and is in fact- Blues for the Tres.

In "Palo Jazz" the vocals of Pedro Pablo Martinez are heard in a joyous multi-layered exploration of Congolese and Yoruba derived rhythms. The peaceful and meditative "Oracion Judia" uses three prayers from the Jewish liturgical tradition. "Dub Tres" is from another island- Jamaica and was inspired by the Dance Hall DJ’s that dominated New York as Lapidus was coming of age. Bride of Blue Tres" is a straight-ahead Tres showcase featuring bassist Harvey S.

"Bedtime" is a Lullaby written as a Bolero and dedicated to Benjamin Lapidus’ beautiful Puerto Rican wife who is expecting their first child, an experience that will surely be the next great challenge and inspiration of his life.

"Blue Tres" is a major and important work with a basic sweetness and sense of fun in all the serious music going on. Benjamin Lapidus is already working on his next contribution to Latin Music as he develops his totally original take on life and music. Only 35 years old he has already carved out for himself a place in the history of the music he loves and created a world of new possibilities for the instruments he loves - the Guitar and the Tres- in Blue.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Benjamin Lapidus
  • CD Title: Blue Tres
  • Genre: Latin Jazz / Latin Funk
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Tresero Production
  • Rating: Five Stars
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