Perhaps best known for a 15-year stint as a member of the acclaimed soul act and JOVM mainstays Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, the California-born, New York-based multi-instrumentalist Cochemea Gastelum simultaneously has a lengthy career as a soloist, bandleader, musical director, composer and ensemble player — including releasing a critically applauded effort as a bandleader, The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow several years ago.
With both of his parents being musicians, Gastelum grew up in a rather musical home. And although the multi-instrumentalist, bandleader, musical director and composer can claim Yaqui Mescalero Apache Indian heritage — in fact, his name is Yaqui Mescalero Apache for “they were all asleep” — he grew up without knowing much about his own heritage. Ironically though, he has spent the bulk of his musical career writing, performing and recording various iterations of roots music.
Slated for a February 22, 2019 release through Daptone Records, Gastelum’s soon-to-be released effort All My Relations find the California-born, New York-based former member of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings connecting with his roots through music. “All My Relations is a way for me to explore my roots through music,” the California-born, New York-based saxophonist, bandleader, musical director and composer says in press notes. “Some of it is a memory that is imagined from a time and place I’ve never been (‘Sonora’) or a musical impression of ritual (‘Mitote’). I felt compelled to add the way I feel when I go to ceremony, when I feel connected with my ancestors, to the musical narrative.”
Originally conceived during Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings’ final year of touring, Gastelum along with Daptone Records head and producer Gabriel Roth cast a varied but familial set of local musicians to bring Gastelum’s ideas to life. Unsurprisingly, a large portion of the album was created through improvisation and collective writing, where its 10 musicians created a melodic, percussive conversation. “It was a beautiful experience – people would start playing and we’d work up these arrangements on the spot, then record it,” Gastelum says of the recording sessions. Now, as you may recall, the album title track and first single “All My Relations” featured an arrangement of tribal percussion, chanting, ethereal flute, and a gently propulsive bass line that created a composition that feels ceremonial and suggests that the musicians were aiming for something much more profound and necessary — a connection with the infinite.
All My Relations’ second and latest single “Al-Mu’Tasim” derives its name from the Arabic phrase “he who seeks shelter in God.” Sonically, the track is reportedly by Moroccan Gnawa music, and as a result the track consists of a composition centered around a looping and expressive horn line, a sinuous and bass line, tribal drumming and a chanted chorus. Sonically, the composition manages to recall the most gorgeous and thoughtful elements of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme — but with a tribal and ancient vibe. “This track features Gabe [Roth] on the Gimbre. He has some North African ancestry and had a Gimbre that his dad brought him back from Morocco. It’s influenced by Gnawa music from the region,” Gastelum says in press notes.