The hidden connection between the ambidextrous strikes and scratches involved in playing either turntables or conga drums stands plain in the music of Val Jeanty, the Haitian-born Berklee professor whose multifaceted sonic explorations elicit this kind of insight as a matter of course.
A drummer, turntablist, and composer, Jeanty plays ancient Haitian vodou rhythms through experimental electronic music’s modern apparatus of samplers, laptop filters, and digital pads, building propulsive but ethereal beats that hang like sinuous sculptures in the air. She came to the United States in 1986 and began pioneering her Afro-electronic music and art in the late nineties. Her works are as at home at The Venice Biennale or MoMA as they are at BAM or the Village Vanguard, and she was selected by the poet Tracie Morris when she needed a sound engineer for her installation in the Whitney Biennial.
As a performer, Jeanty defies definition, but as a recording artist, her primary project is Turning Jewels Into Water, a one-of-a-kind duo with Ravish Momin. There, Haitian and Indian folk music react freely in a flask of electronic jazz, balanced on the point “where the ritualistic origins of music and rhythm meet with the digital realm,” as PopMatters said. Jeanty, who has also played on acclaimed records by jazz drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and jazz pianist Kris Davis, will form a trio with them for Big Ears’ presentation of Davis’ Diatom Ribbons. Jeanty is academia’s best-kept secret, but her captivating solo performances deserve fresh ears beyond those hallowed groves.