Enrique Haneine was born in Mexico City (of Lebanese ancestry) and is currently living in New York City. All of those influences and environments have found their way into the captivating and cultivating forms discovered within the confines—if there are any—of “Instants of Time” from Elegant Walk Records (EWRecords-001).
Haneine has pulled together improvisational artists, proficient in Jazz and World Music, to manifest exactly what it is that he wants to convey. Lex Samu is on trumpet, Catherine Sikora on tenor and soprano saxophones, Michael Rorby on trombone, Carlo de Rosa on acoustic bass, Lori Cotler (appearing three times on vocals) and Haneine himself on drums and percussion. Haneine himself produced the album.
The rhythms are soaked with meaning and profundity. As is true with most drummers and percussionists, the meter is more important than the melody, the tune serving the tempo. Haneine’s use of those brilliant Afro-Cuban clave rhythms and the neck-jerking provide the structure from which the horn players are free to leap. This is the stuff that mesmerizes the mind and enraptures the soul.
The album opens with “Bordeaux.” The introduction is a heavy bass and drum groove that is immediately inviting. The horns slide alongside with muted cool. Lex Samu springs away on trumpet in vein-bulging intensity. At first in consonance with the trumpet, Lori Cotler’s vocals emerge from the duo in a Middle Eastern vocal riff. Catherine Sikora’s soprano sax mirrors the riff before improvising on her own. The bass and drums maintain the groove from start to finish. Call it Afro-Cuban-Arabic Bop. Sweet stuff.
“Angularity Within” follows with an almost trigonometric study in angles. The switchbacks in times and tones is eye-opening, if not mind-bending. The cross-cutting horns over the circular patterns of bass and drums is thrilling.
“If You Know What I Mean” is an almost Free Jazz improvisation. And that is fine with me. The free rhythm section runs amok beneath the lock-step singularity of the horns. It comes across as a philosophical rendering of what it means to act freely in a restrictive environment. Haneine remains free beneath the strident horns and oppressive bass. He exults in percussive liberty and beckons us to follow in freedom.
This is followed by “Houston.” The rhythm and melody sound like Latin American life in a cosmopolitan sphere. The Latin flavors struggle beneath the adamant expectations of foreign city. The Latin elements never lose their joy and life, no matter where they are located.
“Esperanza” opens with Sikora’s sonorous tenor sax to be soon joined by the sweet sounds of Cotler’s vocals. With de Rosa’s bass and Haneine’s drums, a tapestry of warmth and vulnerability is woven that draws the listener ever deeper into the emotion of the piece. Beautiful.
“Slippery When Dry” is a cool work of New York City textures and times. Sikora’s tenor sax sets up the wild ride of Samu’s trumpet as de Rosa and Haneine carry on with switches and runs that almost steal the show. The work between rhythm section and horn section is brilliant, to say the least.
“Inside the Journey” is the midway point of the album. Haneine opens with a Udu Drum as Cotler’s vocals sound like speaking in tongues. The use of vocal as percussion with the drum is fascinating. Near the two-minute mark, the horns come aboard as Haneine sits the full drum kit and de Rosa carries out the bass structure. Soprano sax walks off with a melody that is soon taken by the trumpet. The full horn section carries the melody to the end with the faint whiff of incense.
“Color and Space” is perfectly named. The whole piece is an expression of the importance of what is not played over what is played. The holes in time carry as much richness as the structured time. In defiance of optics, the true color is found within the space.
Still, the hues and tones are expressed magnificently in the sections of deft artistry and composition. It is a wonderfully constructed piece and musicians and composer alike shine brilliantly.
The ninth track is “By Choice.” Again, bass and drums opens the introduction. The horns join in with a raw bravado which is invigorating and challenging. Sikora’s tenor sax is rich in its solo as Samu’s trumpet follows with flights of purpose and destiny. Rorby’s trombone is throaty, even lusty, before the full horn section returns in force.
Again, de Rosa and Haneine create a smoky firmament upon which the others stand—the foundation being as beautiful as the edifice.
“The East Side of Lloyd” offers a terrific example of a partnership between Brazil and Beirut. If Latin rhythms were mated with Lebanese melodies, this is the result and it is stunning. This could be my favorite piece on the album. As the piece concluded, during my first listening, all I could say was “No! Don’t stop!”
“The Tear and Smile of an Angel” is introduced by Michael Rorby’s trombone before the drums come rolling in. Sikora and Samu each get their turns while de Rosa and Haneine are absolutely on fire. As the two of them play in duo—while the horns sit out for a bit—it is easily some of the most rewarding minutes of the whole album.
“Let the Cedar Tell the Story” is as Lebanese as one can wish. The cedar is the tree that adorns the Lebanese flag and the rhythms and melodies of this track are as richly Lebanese as the fragrant cedar. This is so well-layered that it requires multiple listenings to peel away the many facets. Delicate and thunderous, sweet and strong, the piece speaks volumes of wondrous culture and nature. This is the track I could not hear enough.
“Who’s Willing” concludes this stunning album. The horn section and the rhythm section are vibrant and dynamic. First together, now apart, they offer cooperation, solidarity, then independence as they all bend their artistry to the singular purpose of displaying what Haneine has determined.
Enrique Haneine’s “Instants of Time” is not an amalgam of musical expressions and varied rhythms. It is a mural of a life of experiences and emotions, artistic adventures and innovative improvisations. It is a revelation of the soul of the man. It is a self-portrait painted in cool.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl