Arturo Stable Releases CALL
October 13 on Origen Records
Arturo Stable’s new release on the Origen Records label, Call, redefines the outer limits of Latin jazz through complex and compelling original works and an outpouring of virtuosic performances by Stable and his quintet. It is the follow-up to his 2007 Origen Records release Notes on Canvas, a critically-lauded effort that featured Stable’s aural interpretations of iconic paintings by Monet, Picasso and other masters.
“I see Callas a culmination of some of the material that I started developing in Notes on Canvas,” the 34-year old innovator explains. “I see some new and positive elements in my playing that I like very much, and a cohesive sound throughout the album that I’m especially happy with. But there’s a contrast between the two albums that’s enjoyable as well.”
Call’s riveting qualities stem from Stable’s choice of musicians and how he chose to record the session. Call is a quintet outing that showcases pianist Aruan Ortiz, bassist Edward Perez, saxophonist Javier Vercher and drummer Francisco Mela, with special guest Ian Izquierdo on violin.
“I wanted to take the tunes into the studio and play them live, like the great jazz players used to do,” he comments. “The band on the album is not a group of musicians that I just called to record an album. They are all friends who share my ideas. We know each other musically very,very well and this allowed us to create some truly exceptional performances.”
The 10 tracks on Call, all his original creations, reflect a wide range of influences, from Middle Eastern and Spanish airs to multi-layered Afro-Cuban modes. The results of this amalgamation are entrancing, only serving to elucidate Stable’s identity as a complete artist – he is not content to repeat himself and is constantly in search of challenging new musical settings to conquer.
He describes the song “Spider Web” as “a very fun tune that continually is evolving. It’s separated into different parts, just like a spider’s web, and you can get trapped in it if you are not careful!”
“Old Memories” is a tune Stable wrote while in Valencia, Spain while attending a jazz festival. “The song is written over an Afro-Peruvian rhythm called landó. The funny thing is that right after I wrote the composition, I lost the music the same night I finished it, without ever actually playing it! Six months later, after a number of failed attempts to rewrite the tune, I woke up in the middle of the night and recomposed the whole thing, note-by-note.”
“Goodbye to Eternity” is another tune that is loaded with Stable’s distinctive approach to writing. “It conceptually reflects a moment where you realize that you’ve lost your birthright to immortality because you have not lived according to natural laws,” he states. “But there may be hope, and that comes in the B section of the tune. The song is written in 17-8 and 9-8, so it is rhythmically a little difficult, but I think that the melody smoothes out the tricky rhythmic edges.”
Yet another striking example of his originality is “Anthem,” a tune written on the same form as Ravel’s “Bolero.” “It is a repetitive melody that keeps changing colors with each repetition,” he notes, “by adding new melodic and rhythmic elements. It’s written in a specific combination of 6-8 measures. It’s my spiritual anthem when I have to confront a big obstacle in my life. It’s like a war chant.”
Stable’s path to his current status as one of the contemporary Latin jazz movement’s most creative exponents has been particularly circuitous.Born in 1975 in Santiago de Cuba, young Arturo was exposed to a wide variety of performing and visual arts from an early age by his father,a painter and musician. He began his formal study of music at age four, taking both piano and theory lessons. When the family moved to Havana,he earned a degree in percussion at the Cuban capital’s famous Amadeo Roldán Conservatory.
At the age of 18, he relocated to the Mexican city of Puebla, honing his percussionist’s skills as a sideman for noted Mexican rock, jazz and Latin bands. Stable launched his teaching career, conducting classes in Cuban and classical percussion at the Puebla State University (Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla). In 2001, he received a scholarship to study at Berklee College of Music and earned a degree in Contemporary Writing and Production.
In recent years, Stable has performed with a wide range of leading jazz stars, from Canadian woodwind artist Jane Bunnett and guitarist Lionel Loueke to vibraphonist Dave Samuels and pianist Hector Martignon.
Several key factors differentiate Stable from the pack. Playing mostly congas on his own sessions, he navigates complex and technically daunting rhythms in odd time signatures never compromising his warm, melodic and uncommonly light touch. And, although in the history of Latin jazz, it has not been uncommon for a percussionist to lead an ensemble, few have demonstrated the knack of composition and arranging that he so obviously possesses.
“Piano was my first instrument,” he confides. “I actually considered at some point playing both percussion and piano, but I finally decided my true calling was for the drums. Maybe the fact that I grew up in Cuba, where percussion is so predominant, had a lot to do with it.”
His approach to composition, he says, is a combination of intuition and hard work. “There is always a spark of inspiration,” he comments, “a bass line, a melody or a chord progression that captures my attention.But after that, it comes down to the real process of composing, where you take that idea and develop it into a tune. I normally can write my ideas without the help of the piano, but sometimes in order to complete a song, I end up at the piano for hours. And, I also do a lot of research, checking out classical compositions, studying harmonies used by Ravel, Strauss and Schoenberg, among others, as well as referring to jazz literature.”
With Call as his new calling card, it’s easy to understand why Arturo Stable is being recognized as one of the most accomplished and dynamic leaders of the new Latin jazz tradition. “Everything I do as a player comes from checking out all of the percussion masters who have come before me,” he acknowledges with sincerity, “and I feel a great admiration for all of them.”