Grammy-nominated Cuban guitarist/composer/vocalist Juan-Carlos Formell re-ignites the connections between Cuban music and jazz with his explosive new project "Johnny's Dream Club". Named for a legendary Havana jazz cabaret, "Johnny's Dream Club" represents a place outside time - the vortex between New Orleans and Havana, where the parallel lines of Cuban music and American jazz converge. It's a new dimension of latin jazz --intense, lyrical, dangerously dream-like. Formell and his all-star quartet map this territory in a delirious sequence of juxtapositions: "Ciudad" ("City"), evoking the nightmare of an urban apocalypse, flows into a jazz ballad about an elusive love ("Siempre que te vas"); songs about being lost at sea ("Las islas son malvadas", "Cuando hable de la noche") and the bloody history of the Caribbean ("Yanbando") are set against haunting, mystical love songs ("Sotavento", "Fuego de Amor") inspired by Havana's "Feeling" movement.
A precursor to - and influence upon - bossa nova, Feeling emerged from the Bohemian enclaves of Centro Habana in the late 1940s. Feeling's free-style guitar, with progressive harmonies, diminished chords and bittersweet texts of disillusioned love reflected the sophisticated after-hours atmosphere of Havana's bohemian AfroCuban musicians: composer/guitarists Jose Antonio Mendez and Cesar Portillo de la Luz; singers Elena Burke and Omara Portuondo; pianists Bebo Valdes and Peruchin.
Feeling was also the starting point of Juan-Carlos Formell's biography. Born in Havana in 1964, a fourth generation Cuban musician, he learned the technique of the Feeling guitar from the creators of the genre: Mendez, Froilan, Guyun. He began composing in his teens, and studied bass with Andres Escalona, the first bassist of the Havana Symphony Orchestra. After completing his studies Juan-Carlos became the bassist for the jazz pianist Emiliano Salvador.
As a classically trained bassist, virtuoso guitarist, and composer gifted with a groundbreaking and powerful writing style, Juan-Carlos had all the elements to become a voice of his generation - but instead, was prevented from performing or recording his own work by Cuba's government-controlled music industry because his music didn't fit into any official category. In 1993, after touring Mexico as a replacement for bassist Cachaito Lopez, Juan-Carlos fled to the United State to realize his mission of creating a new wave of Cuban music. He settled in New York City and soon started his own band. His years of struggle were vindicated when he was signed to a major record label in 1999 and his debut album, "Songs from a Little Blue House" was nominated for a Grammy. Part prophet, part poet, in exile Juan-Carlos has forged a post-modern identity for AfroCuban music that has been hailed as "musical magic realism". His five albums constitute an epic poem of Antillean mytho-history, with songs ranging from a paen to the flora and fauna of his native country, a personal invocation to an AfroCuban deity, an ode to a sacred river or a hymn to the "divine light" that brings us to a union with our higher selves. Juan-Carlos describes his new project as "a reflection of our culture today -- in the post-modern landscape, we are all refugees from the broken city, haunted, adrift at sea, in danger of losing our true reference points and losing our way forever. I keep returning to New Orleans for inspiration because I believe that there, at the crossroads of the Caribbean, it's possible to create music that embraces the past while gazing at the future -- a new music without genres and categories."
Juan-Carlos Formell @ Zinc Bar | NYC -- November 10th, 2010
ZINC BAR 82 West 3rd St (btw Sullivan & Thompson)
sets: 9:30 PM, 11:30 PM & 1:00 AM