Ches Smith’s We All Break
with Sirene Dantor Rene, Lalin St Juste, Tossie Long, Miguel Zenón, Matt Mitchell, Nick Dunston, Daniel Brevil, Markus Schwartz & Fanfan Jean Guy Rene
A polymathic percussionist who is equally adept whether playing jazz with Mary Halvorson, microtonal music with Lou Harrison, or experimental rock with Xiu Xiu, Ches Smith also made his name as a bandleader who could conjure avant-garde symphonies with pitched percussion and deep respect for global music traditions. He joined pianist Craig Taborn and violist Mat Maneri for his ECM debut, The Bell, in 2016, which The New York Times called an “excitingly slippery album, both conceptually and physically.” His next breakthrough would be enshrined on We All Break’s Path of Seven Colors in 2021.
Founded in 2013, the ensemble was rooted in Haitian vodou music, whose elaborate rhythmic and harmonic structures Smith learned from masters like Markus Schwartz and Daniel Brevil. He enlisted those two mentors, with pianist Matt Mitchell, to record a self-titled debut, which was reissued alongside a new album with eight players, Path of Seven Colors.With barrel and kata drums, vocals in Haitian Creole, the outsize talent of the prolific Grammy-and-fellowship-draped saxophonist Miguel Zenón, and an unstinting sense of reverential discovery, the album is “not a fusion of jazz and Haitian vodou music, but a reflection of the complexities and rewards resulting from close cooperation between two cultures and musical systems,” AllMusic wrote. Meanwhile, in a five-star review, The Guardian said that it demonstrates “why the nondescript term ‘drummer’ doesn’t get near the chemistry of earworm hooks, sharp-end jazz innovation, and global-musical openness” of Ches Smith.