Gabriel says, “All my influences of South-American, Caribbean and Black-American music have one source in common, Africa. We’re trying to bring out all the shared elements, the places were many musical traditions live together, instead of focusing on the genres and stereotypes, we need more of this spirit in a society that suffers from racism, prejudice, and wars. We want to create a space where music can shift paradigms”
All of that becomes apparent on his latest album new beginnings. Gabriel is the anchor in this terrific album. Gabriel is producer, composer, background vocals, and on piano with Carmela Ramirez, the co-producer, on vocals. Adam O'Farrill is on trumpet, Morgan Guerin is on tenor saxophone, Jongkuk Kim is on drums, Edward Perez is on bass, Daniel Prim and Jeickov Vital are on percussion.
Mina/San Millan opens the album with that cool piano and percussion interplay. Morgan Guerin tenor saxophone jumps aboard in preparation for Carmela Ramirez’ intoxicating vocals. You’ve got to love the Latin rhythms and the percussionists take it home.
New Danza is a smooth melody with excellent trumpet interludes by Adam O’Farrill. Again, Carmela adds her rich vocal intonations. But Gabriel stays in the spotlight where he deserves to be. This young man is infectious with his playing and composing.
No Me Convence (Doesn’t Convince Me) is locked in on the rhythms and this band keeps it tight. Trumpet and sax are in it brilliantly as they play the rhythm melodically, as well. Gabriel and the percussion are so right on. Pay attention to Jongkuk Kim’s drumming on this one. You’re going to love the vocal outro.
Melodia de Agradecemiento (Melody of Thanks) is opened with a gorgeous piano and bass duet. Gabriel carries that thankfulness in warmth and devotion and Perez’ bass solo is excellent. Kim’s drums add punctuation and texture while the piano and bass weave their melodies and harmonies together. You can feel the Gospel influence as well as a bit of a nocturne. Beautiful.
New Beginning, the title track, is so hot. Carmela’s vocals and Gabriel’s lead piano are uplifted by the horns and the rhythm section again shows why they are on this album. The improvisational passages are worth every second. You just can’t peel yourself away from Gabriel’s piano.
Voices is a bit of a melancholy with Gabriel’s piano and Perez’ bowed bass. You just can’t get enough of Gabriel Chakarji. His is masterful and passionate and lyrical. He plays like a Liszt or Paderewski with the soul of a McCoy Tyner.
Montuno Quince sets off like Brubeck’s Rondo a la Turk before breaking out into impassioned tenor sax solos and riotous rhythms. This may be the most fun song on the album and those Latin rhythms and piano chops are the stuff Jazz dreams are made of.
Norte y Sur (North and South) is such a cool closing to the album. Again, Gabriel is in front and we like it like that. Kim’s drumming is beautifully articulate and accurate. Perez gets another smoking bass solo before Gabriel and Kim close it all out.
Gabriel Chakarji is a very young man with the heart and soul of a wizened Jazz master of our yesterdays. His compositions pay homage to his influences while his playing sounds like something yet to come. I remember thinking the same thoughts of a young Brad Meldau or Lyle Mays. Gabriel’s craftmanship promises that same bright future.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl