Henry Cole & the Afrobeat Collective – Roots Before Branches


Henry Cole & the Afrobeat Collective – “Trabájala”
Roots Before Branches

Imagine if Fela Kuti had recorded some sessions with Miles Davis during his jazz-rock fusion period. Mix in a little Afro-Carribean flavor and you have a taste of the newest offering from Henry Cole & the Afrobeat Collective. Their latest record, Roots Before Branches, contains many musical elements from Latin America, Africa and Europe. Henry Cole was born in Mayaguëz, Puerto Rico and at the age of nine he fell in love with the drums. His eclectic taste in music led to him exploring many different styles of music from Puerto Rican traditional sounds to the New York jazz scene. Once Henry discovered Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat music, a direction began to take shape. The big sound accomplished by an ensemble inspired Henry, so he got some musicians together and jammed in a studio in San Juan with some simple charts for the band to groove on. The results formed the foundation for Roots Before Branches. Throughout each track there is a pulse that unites each composition – the voice and language of the drum.

“In many traditions, the drum that speaks, that improvises, usually has a high and a low sound. You have two sounds in Puerto Rican plena, playing the language of the drum. The traditional players don’t think about it in terms of technique; they think about language. I wanted to learn the language from the main traditional sources and then orchestrate it from there.” – Henry Cole

Splitting his time between studios in Puerto Rico and New York, Cole brought in some of the finest musicians for this record. Miguel Zenón, David Sánchez, the New Orleans-inspired post-bop tenor sax of John Ellis, Tito Puente trumpet man Piro Rodríguez, salsa master Cheito Quiñone (Arturo Sandoval, Julio Eglesias), and guitarist Adam Rogers (Cassandra Wilson, John Zorn, Paul Simon) all lend a hand to Roots Before Branches. The tracks practically wrote themselves as the band drew upon the spirit of play and let their instruments cut loose. Cole produces some incredible Afrobeat music here, but it’s the stew of influences that impress the most. “Trabájala,” featured above, has rap poet Hérmes Ayala laying down a call to action over some killer grooves. Elsewhere, there are hints of indie rock on “Una para Isabel” and electronic music on “Comienzo” and “Uncovered Fears.” This amazing mix of styles result in a very fresh approach to Afrobeat. To get a sample of this album, listen to “Trabájala” above. Be sure to catch Henry Cole & the Afrobeat Collective at 92YTribeca on May 30th.

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