Caribbean Saxophone Colossus Jacques Schwarz-Bart to release The Harlem Suite on March 31, 2023, on Ropeadope
Jacques Schwarz-Bart has been at the center of several musical revolutions: neo soul next to D’angelo and Erika Badu, New Jazz as a founding member of Roy Hargrove RH Factor. He outright created two surging new styles: Gwoka Jazz, and Voodoo jazz, reuniting jazz music with its Afro-Caribbean and spiritual origins. Jacques’ impressionistic writing, powerful tone, and wide-ranging language – both lyrical and angular – have fueled a growing presence on the world stage.
Now, Jacques is gearing up to release his 11th album. Entitled The Harlem Suite, it is a harvest of tunes and arrangements that he wrote to celebrate each step into his perilous but rewarding journey, from his native island of Guadeloupe to the heart of modern black music: Harlem, where he lived for 18 years. “I started playing the tenor sax at 24. Three years later, I quit my job at the French Senate to go to Berklee. At that point, coming to NY and playing with the likes of Roy Hargrove, D’Angelo, Meshell, Danilo Perez, was an impossible dream. And then it happened. Next to these giants, I started honing my playing and my musical vision.” says Jacques. His Harlem Suite portrays a modern jazz concept high in colors, built around powerful melodies, infused with uplifting Afro Caribbean spirit, and dancing on a tapestry of poly rhythms. The lineup includes Terri Lyne Carrington, Marcus Gilmore, Sullivan Fortner, Victor Gould, Matt Penman, Reggie Washington, Arnaud Dolmen, Gregory Privat, Stephanie McKay, Malika Tirolien and Ivana Cuesta.
From the liner notes to The Harlem Suite (March 31, 2023, Ropeadope):
The Harlem Suite is a childhood dream of coming to NY from my little island of Guadeloupe, and becoming a jazz musician. The tunes and arrangements were written to celebrate each step on this perilous but rewarding journey, during the 20 years spent in this iconic part of New York. The compositions reflect the musical wisdom I inherited from playing with some of the greatest musicians of our time: Roy Hargrove’s beautiful sound and impeccable phrasing, D’Angelo’s visionary grooves and unique intensity, Meshell Ndegeocello’s sense of mystery and poetry.
Many of the songs are inspired by the harsh human reality reflected in the disenfranchised lives of Black people in urban environments, while paying tribute to Harlem’s history as the birth place of several musical revolutions.
In contrast with most of my previous work, this opus is not rooted in Afro Caribbean grooves. It nevertheless bares the mark of polyrhythms in dialogue with lyrical melodies, while embracing the aesthetics of American modern jazz, including its most recent mix of hip hop grooves and improvisation.
Throughout this record, I aspired to paint a modern fresco rich in colors, while staying true to the African tradition of music as a source of healing and spiritual uplifting.