Suite Unseen: Summoner Of The Ghost
Babatunde Lea’s latest African-inspired jazz journey encompasses more than technical polyrhythms and pentatonics.
Leas latest African-inspired jazz journey encompasses more
than technical polyrhythms and pentatonics. Suite Unseen: Summoner
of the Ghost tackles social rife, spiritual understanding, and
cultural mores through global rhythms that spear their way to audiences
For Babatunde Lea, there is no separation between mind, body, and
spirit. Lea notes how music and art frequently take on functional
roles. They complement the ceremonious at funerals and births, celebrate
the sacramental with fertility rites, and mark the feudal during
Through music, Lea materializes what he calls the spirit
- the feeling one gets when a collective body of humans comes together
in some endeavor. Babatunde Lea has experienced this through gospel
music, playing in drum lines, and participating in conga sessions.
The feeling of the spirit is a phenomenon that we are all
capable of hooking up to, says Lea.
While Leas life is deeply rooted in religion, he maintains
that the spirit is nondenominational. When you couch it [the
spirit] in religion, it seems to separate not connect the
spirit is one. For Lea, Summoner of the Ghost is a
euphemism for feeling and spirit; his polyrhythms a metaphor for
culture. He harnesses the spirit to unite all colors and creeds
in musical unity. Once you know you are connected, anything
outside of yourself affects you, he says. Lea calls for a
separation between church and state of musical mind, which he achieves
by tying traditional swing and Latin feels to African rhythms.
Lea quashes stereotypes and xenophobia by producing sounds that
force you to go beyond personal differences and sit together in
a common culture comprised of unique sub-cultures. As an African-American,
Lea sets his sights on healing social wounds as he sees America
and the world still in a process of what he refers to as debriefing
from slavery. Theres really only one race - the human
race, he says. After music opens you up, certain things
need to be put in to understand the inclusiveness and complex connections
Lea delivers a spoonful of spirit that fends off the less authentic
and engages listeners in heartfelt collective playing. You
are what you digest, he says. And all too often we consume
video games, American Idol, and Days of Our Lives.
Leas trombonist Steve Turres whirring lines certainly
require more chewing than the widely popular, more easily digested
I strive to play my life and be able to change the texture
and timbre of the music through what I do, explains Lea.
I put a canvas in front of my musicians to include their own lives,
too. This allows the mingling of spirits so that the colors run
His musical philosophy has taken cues from Nigerian master drummer
Babatunde Olatunji, who made his biggest impression on Lea with
his recording, Drums of Passion. He took the spirit
of music and filled me up. It was transcendental. In addition
to Olatunji, Leas influences include: Nina Simone, Oscar Brown,
Jr., Nancy Wilson, Julian Cannonball Adderly, and Pharaoh
Sanders. In his own music, Lea marries jazz and African influences
to drive the percussive jeep on his jazz safari.
Even though Leas interests reside in the spiritual more than
the empirical, he joins complex sounds into a well brewed mixture
of conch shells, trombone, saxophone, piano, kalimba, acoustic bass,
and an array of percussive instruments including the tama drum,
and bala fon.
My music and my life are synonymous and intertwined,
says Lea. As I grow older, I try to be more articulate. Suite
Unseen comes a step closer to that. At 57 years old, Im
still climbing my ladder, he says.
Suite Unseen: Summoner of the Ghost