Sunday, October 4, 2009

Tribute to Michael Galasso & Mongo Santamaria + More!

Hello, Friends!

I’m back from a fun weekend at our Vedic beach house, in Angra dos Reis!

My brother-in-law, Louie Saucha, also has a great house in the same private (gated) community and this weekend, along with a bunch of good friends, we celebrated his birthday on Saturday night. One of the highlights of that evening was a private, in-house circus act by two young carioca circus performers, one of them a musician/clown/trapeze artist (he had actually set up a trapeze in a part of the living room!) and the other one a contortionist fire-breather!

I had just arrived with Margo after enjoying a sauna session and dashed out to the car to retrieve a video camera in order to film the trapeze act…but, the camera wasn’t there, so I ended up using my phone to capture these small clips that I’m bringing here to share with you. The performers are Celso (whom we know since he was a baby!) and his friend Natalia. Louie, the birthday honoree, can be seen with the silver top-hat, enjoying the show!

My good buddy, Russian guitarist Roman Miroshnichenko, has a fine, new CD he’s just released, titled, “Temptation”. Roman, as far as I’m concerned, is the premier Russian guitarist of this decade and I have a wonderful time performing with him every time I visit his country, which has been on a yearly basis since 2003. So, it was a natural urge to invite him to participate on a song on one of my on-going pet projects, The Musical Nations Project (, which he gladly accepted to do, performing brilliantly on the track titled, “Xekere”. He then turned around and included the track on his new CD, released in Russia and Europe and available through CD Baby ( and iTunes!

Temptation CD Cover

Also featured on the track are: from England - Clive Stevens (soprano saxophone), from Spain – Michael Groosman, and from Brazil – producer/composer/arranger Daniel Figueiredo. Also on the CD are musicians Henrik Andersen (soprano guitar, vocal, sitar, harp, konnakol vocals), Hernan Romero (acoustic guitar), IKA (vocal, spoken word), Nikolay Rostov (keyboards, programming), Sergei Filatov (electric piano), Leonid Atabekov (keyboards, programming), Galina Mishustina (vocal).

Now a video clip from one of my drum mentors; the late GREAT Mongo Santamaria! The song is “Leah” and this is a “live” recording, taken when Mongo and his band were the opening act for an unforgettable show by the Fania All-Stars at Yankee Stadium in New York City.

Last month, one of my good friends and colleagues, Maestro/violinist Michael Galasso, passed away in Paris, after a fierce struggle with liver cancer. A brilliant composer of film soundtracks and avant-guard theater music, over the years, we worked on some memorable and interesting projects together, such as a two-hour sound sculpture, commissioned by Georgio Armani foundation and designed to sonically circulate the entire Guggenheim Museums of New York and Bilbao…the first sound installation in the Guggenheim’s history!

Galasso constantly stretched the boundaries of contemporary music: from his early use of evolving music technologies, to working with Iranian, Indian, South American and African Musicians, to his use of MIDI violin and the Internet. He performed in more than 300 concerts all over the world always in groundbreaking places, such as the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, The Kitchen in NY, the Médersa in Marrakech, and the Roman Amphitheatre in Malaga. Gallasso’s work has been presented in such festivals as the Festival d’Automne in Paris, The Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy and the Festival de Musique Montreux-Vevey.

In 2001, I performed with him at the Venice Bienniale, who commissioned a music score for a ballet by Carolyn Carlson. His works have also been included in the repertoire of the Paris Opera Ballet. We also worked together on film soudtracks, some of which won the European Critics Award and the César for the best foreign film.

My last project with Michael was participating on his last CD, titled “High Lines”, recorded in Oslo, Norway and produced by the famous Manfred Eicher, owner of the prestigious ECM Records.

High Lines CD Cover

The following are the two reviews of this album on

5.0 out of 5 stars Broadening his sonic palette, June 16, 2005
By Jan P. Dennis "Longboard jazzer" (Monument, CO USA) -

With the addition of Terje Rypdal (guitar), Mark Marder (double-bass), and Frank Colon (percussion), mysterioso violinist Michael Galasso significantly expands the aural soundscape in this follow-up to his 1984 disc Scenes. How many other musicians wait more than two decades to come out with a second release? That's what Galasso has done, which, one supposes, does little to undo his reputation as a first-class musical iconoclast.

And the sounds contained in this provocative disc further that reputation. This collection of mostly miniatures mainly featuring the leader's unique violin stylings does open things out in the direction of jazz beat/chamber jazz/world metal styles--a quite beguiling mix, if you ask me. The inclusion of guitarist Terje Rypdal was a stroke of genius. The longtime ECM-label staple here plies his rock-tinged improvisational skills to maximum effect. Check out his playing on, esp., "The Other." The leader seems to restlessly shift from one soundscape to another, moving with ease from drone to Nordic fiddle music to world jazz to Gothic to New Music to classical to chamberish ambient to Middle Eastern sounds, all with stunning effect.

It certainly helps to have completely simpatico bandmates. And one could hardly ask for better interpreters than Rypdal, Marder, and Colon. Each brings a wealth of recorded and live-music experience, plus an ability to completely tune in to the weird vibe that leader Galasso exudes.

Certainly not for everybody, but anyone with an adventurous spirit looking for highly idiosyncratic but brilliantly conceived and played instrumental music will want to check out this remarkable recording.

4.0 out of 5 stars Incidental music at its best, October 23, 2005
By Paul Kim (Athens, GA United States) -

Michael Galasso's first release under his own name since 1984's Scenes consists of 16 aural vignettes covering a refreshingly broad scope of moods and styles. While listening to 30-second clips tells you very little about certain albums, in this case you'll find out all you need to know. Each track sets up a certain mood or sensation and maintains it, for the most part, throughout. Any development you get is relatively subtle. Calling this disc background music is certainly not an insult, but this music doesn't stand up to studied listening. Having said that, it is still, with a few notable exceptions, a beautiful album.

ECM's typically-pristine production captures the performances exceptionally well. Galasso's violin sounds gorgeous, and the different percussive textures that Frank Colón produces are almost magical. Nice double-bass work by Marc Marder as well. However, the guitar work of Terje Rypdal sticks out, and not in a good way. Take "The Other," for instance. Not even Manfred Eicher's sonic prowess can do anything to reduce the displeasure you get from hearing Rypdal's guitar tone. His is the reverb-drenched buzzsaw distortion tone that you hear 13-year-old nu metal shredders-to-be use as they test out import Strat copies through 15-watt solid state amps at Guitar Center. On this track and others, it spoils the otherwise-gorgeous sound of the album. In addition, some of Rypdal's playing itself comes close to noodling. Granted, he does have some nice moments, but I'd sooner not hear him.

Still, this is quite an intriguing disc, though maybe not one you'll continue to cherish for years and years.

And, of course…..yes……MORE DRUMS!

A classic inspiration for me, back when I was still in The American University, majoring in Political Science – the infamous conga duel between Mongo Santamaria and Ray Barreto, performing with the Fania All-Stars, titled, “Congo Bongo”!

I still get goose-bumps when I see this!!!

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