The musically provocative title of Chinese born composer and piano virtuoso Dongfeng Liu’s new album China Caribe reflects his desire to use jazz fusion as a multi-faceted tool to educate listeners about an important, all too easy to overlook historical and cultural connection between his homeland and the Caribbean.
The eight engaging tracks roll gracefully, soulfully and often times intensely as a soundtrack to a unique era in world history – as early as the 1860’s – when Chinese immigrants journeyed to the Americas. It is said that at one point, Havana had the largest Chinese population in the Western Hemisphere during this period. Paralleling that concept, China Caribe becomes an exotic global fusion universe of its own - a realm where traditional lute-like Chinese string instruments (the ruan and pipa, both brilliantly played by Min Xiaofen) seduce us alongside hypnotic Afro-Cuban rhythms, the stark hand percussion of Roberto Quintero, Jon Benitez’ plucky jazz bass, tripped out synth and swinging Miles and Coltrane trad jazz.
Liu’s inventive motifs, melodies and improvisations adapt dynamically throughout to all the eclectic, polyrhythmic instrumentation. China Caribe is a fascinating, an eye (and ear) opening project!