Saxophonist and bandleader Paul Carlon has made it his life’s mission to assimilate Latin music into American jazz. One of his vehicles has been The Paul Carlon Octet whose latest release, Roots Propaganda is a beautifully laid-out tapestry of Brazilian-tinged mosaics, swing jazz arias, and South Pacific-tinted journeys. Carlon recently described his music with the Octet in a press release as "Making roots music through a jazz lens." He incorporates Cuban, South American, and Afro-Latin textures with influences of swing jazz and chamber music. I would not call Roots Propaganda an album with a lot of propaganda material, but it has a lot of substance taken from tribal music and cultural traditions, and carries these forms into the present. The album serves both entertaining and pedagogical purposes, and stretches jazz music’s fingertips into a burgeoning art form that represents both music and culture.
The Octet begins with a ravishing mix of swing jazz motifs featuring jittery horn swirls and Cuban rhythms with a catchy bom-bom beat as Christelle Durandy’s vocals delightfully wrap around the melodic curves. The aperture in her voicing has a luxuriating Brazilian-tint that adds an alluring coating to the tribal sprints. The gently traipsing bayonets of the trumpet and saxophones intermingle and tie together like a giggly brood along "Canto de Xango." The sluggish wooly mammoth toots of Ryan Keberle and Mike Fahie’s trombones treading along "Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out" have a coasting swagger sarong in zipping piano keys. The rumbataps and body percussion of Max Pollak through "Mambo pa’ Kanoa" have a street jazz strut striped with flirtatious pop-up flutes. The ballroom flow of "New Life" has hooves that stomp like the booming horns that herald the entrance of a matador, and the sprightly fanned piano keys of "The Limiter" are touched up with sprees of mosaic patterned horns.
The tribal textures of the flute in "Ochun" have inflections of Afro-Latin tones checkered by jubilant saxophone hooks, and the loops of surging horns along "Moro Omim Ma" can be translated into an exotic South Pacific haven with tropical mists and folkloric phrasing that moves elegantly along the passages. The delicately embroidered Latin rhythms of "The Most Beautiful Thing" are hewn by lush piano keys and curvaceous horns while the title track is highly energetic as the horns crisscross and interface with one another. The sultry jazz pitch of the horns in "Hard Times Killin’ Floor Blues" have a hypnotizing sway which jumps into the bulleting beats of "Yorubonics," zooming and gliding with the ease of a tap dancer’s skill.
The Paul Carlon Octet embosses Latin music with swing jazz themes. Their album, Roots Propaganda is a delicious mix of Latin-folk shadowed in roots jazz. Carlon’s experiences as a musician, composer, and bandleader spans across 17 years, and has included his work with Grupo Los Santos, the Jason Lindner Big Band, the Ileana Santamaria Orchestra, the late Juan Pablo Torres, and Clave y Guaguanco. Carlon has played for audiences at music festivals and jazz clubs worldwide from America to Cuba and South America, and continues to tread the line between being a pupil of jazz and actually performing it.