Peace, love and light…
ELEMENTS OF LIFE will be hitting online stores and radio airwaves this Tuesday April 22, 2014 (Earth day).
CD RELEASE CONCERT: To celebrate the new release, there will be a CD Release Party at Union Arts DC 411 New York Ave NE DC. 8pm – 9:30pm
Elements of Life features nine original compositions arising from Cyntje’s most assured artistic position yet. – Washington City Paper
Get your copy today!
CD Baby: http://smarturl.it/elementscdbaby(Live April 22)
Peace, love and light…
Dear new listener,
‘Elements of Life’ is my best overall recording to date as a bandleader. The band (RCG) created a sonic synergy that can be found throughout our new musical contribution.
It was important to me to have musicians on the album with which I have a deep connection. Far too often musicians are hired based on name recognition (to sell albums and/or help gain notoriety). I am fortunate to work with a cast of experienced musicians who are serious about bringing a concept to life.
Here is what went into creating the new album:
After spending long hours composing the music, I sent out an email asking the musicians if they would be interested in creating the new album with me. I explained the concept behind each tune. Everyone said yes! Our first rehearsal was at Herman’s house. We looked at the music and discussed how we were going to bring the elements to life.
Shortly after, I scheduled a series of gigs to give us time to season the music. The next rehearsal was at Allyn’s house. This rehearsal allowed us to rehearse in the same spot where we were going to record. We had a few more rehearsals in this setting.
Please note…In addition to rehearsing as a group, Amin and Herman met to work on fine tuning a few songs. That is the level of dedication I have with these amazing musicians.
Rehearsing in the same room we would record in provided a unique opportunity to prepare physically and psychologically for the recording.
We worked on mic placements, prerecorded the ensemble and developed a vibration that came through on the final product.
We recorded the album in one day. Everything went smoothly. We had one or two takes per tune.
The spirit filled the room on February 1, 2014 and ‘Elements of Life’ was born.
This is our sound. Take a listen…
After moving to DC in 1997, I quickly began working with seasoned musicians on the scene. In 1998, I led my first band.
Reginald Cyntje Quartet (1998)
This band featured Leonardo Lucini on bass, Clyde Adams on drums and Allyn Johnson on piano. I really loved Leonardo’s spirit. Of all the cats, Leo was probably the most mature one in the group at the time. Clyde was pure fire. Clyde would inspire me to play stuff on the horn that only came out in the moment. I was also inspired by Allyn Johnson. Allyn was filled with fresh harmonic ideas. I tried to record this group but resources were limited.
Reginald Cyntje Group (1998-1999)
Later in the year, I started working with a different group of cats. Around this time, I changed the name to the Reginald Cyntje Group. The band consisted of Janelle Gill on piano, Michael Hawkins on bass and Clyde Adams on drums. Janelle’s playing was very tasteful. I loved the way she approached the chord changes. Michael Hawkins always impressed me with his big sound. Mike’s sound was warm and infectious. I loved how Clyde would quickly memorize charts then add his own flavor to the music. I did many gigs with this band. Kenny Rittenhouse recorded the band and I made a demo using my computer. I used the demo to get more gigs and Jamal Muhammad shared the tracks on WPFW.
Reginald Cyntje Large Ensemble (1999-2000)
This ensemble featured Ameen Saleem on bass, Joe Kaplowitz on piano and organ, Antonio Parker on Sax, Jamal Brown on flute and Nasar Abadey on drums. I loved the sound of this band. It was hard to keep this group together due to financial constraints.
I spent the next few years working in a variety of groups in and around NYC. When I returned to DC, I came back with a different mindset.
Reginald Cyntje Group (2002)
At this time, I began exploring the trio sound. For this group, I used Nasar Abadey on drums and James King on bass. We did a series of trio gigs together. I learned a lot working with Nasar and James. James is masterful at comping. Nasar provided the freedom to explore rhythmically and harmonically. After honing the sound of the trio, we later had a quartet gig at Twins Jazz. That weekend was pure magic with the addition of Allyn Johnson.
Reginald Cyntje Group (2003-2004)
At this point, I was using James King frequently. Then one evening I had a gig at Bossa Bistro and James couldn’t make it so he sent a sub. Herman Burney showed up and we hit it off right away. Herman and I started playing in a duo setting. We played at various venues and practiced regularly. After working on a concept, we added Clyde Adams to the mix. We began exploring trio playing. Our home was JoJo’s on U St but we would perform at different venues. This trio was pure fire. Everyone within earshot, felt the vibe that came from the stage. With this group, I met many elders in the DC area.
Reginald Cyntje Group (2004-2006)
Around this time, I started using Amin Gumbs on drums and Benito Gonzalez on piano with Herman Burney on bass. We played regularly as a quartet. Clyde left town… I really missed the trio setting with Clyde but I was exploring a new sound with Amin and Benito. Benito brought a tremendous amount of energy to the bandstand. Amin brought the familiar sound from our hometown. With Benito, we would explore different keys on any tune during a performance.
During the next three years, I got acclimated to being in the army band. My schedule only allowed for freelance gigs and military engagements.
Reginald Cyntje Group (2008)
I walked into a spot on U St and heard guitarist John Lee. I really loved his musical approach. I booked some gigs with John on guitar, Amin on drums and Herman on bass. At this time, I was experimenting with electronics. The vibe was great.
DC Jazz Collaborative (2009)
Our first two performances were beautiful. It felt like a family reunion but due to schedules and finances, it was hard keeping the group together.
Reginald Cyntje Group (2009-present)
I first learned about Victor Provost through Amin. When I met Victor, we hit it off right away. The group became Herman Burney on bass, Victor Provost on steel pan and Amin Gumbs on drums. One of the things I love about this group is the willingness to practice. In 2011, we added Christie Dashiell to the group. In 2012, I returned to the piano sound with the addition of Allyn Johnson.
In this group there is a lot of history. Amin introduced me to jazz when we were in grade school. Allyn and I have been playing together for 17 years plus Allyn played in my very first band. Herman and I have been working together since 2003. We’ve developed a synergy that listeners speak about frequently. Victor and I play together like we’ve known each other for 20 years.
Christie first impressed me at a jam session on U St. I knew then that I wanted to work with her. Since that time, we’ve developed a vibe that can be heard on all three recordings. Christie’s voice blends perfectly with the sound of the band.
I’m happy with where we are and the stairs we took to get here.
On our recordings you can hear the evolution of the Reginald Cyntje Group.
In September of 2013, I began meditating on the relationship between the human spirit and elements of life. The Omnipresent Supreme Being in Fire, Earth, Sky, Water, Wind and every living creature.
With the help of Allyn, Amin, Brian, Christie, Herman and Victor, the music came to life. Collective Creativity…
When the elements are in balance, we have a harmonious environment for growth, health and happiness. In each of us, the elements are at work. There are times when one element seems to prevail…
The title track, Elements of Life, explores the concept of finding joy in all aspects of life. Our theme song plays consistently to remind us of our destiny. We have a purpose on this planet. We’ve been given the gift and responsibility of mother earth…
Earth is structure. The solid state of matter. On Earth, the band captures the changes Earth has undergone. In the beginning, the piano develops the theme and then the changes begin. All living beings come from mother earth. Her blues go through changes but she remains fertile.
Above the earth there is a mesmerizing sphere filled with avant-garde mystery. Sky (Aether) is all encompassing. The day begins with a sunrise. The sunrays heat up the ocean. Under the sky, we all experience a morning start, an afternoon rush and an evening reflection. Some days are swinging. Others are as relaxed as a reggae vibration. Then…we have those funky days. Whatever our experience, we can relate to the sonic difference each day has to offer.
Fire is beautiful and transformative. In a natural eco system, fire can encourage new life on a grassy plane. But when balance is lost, fire can destroy…With fire, comes change. There are many types of flames on our planet. As you listen, meditate on the colors you see as each instrumentalist explores the beauty and power of fire. Is it explosive? Is it illuminating? Does it ignite something inside you?
Water is transportation. The universal solvent… The healing and loving power of water nourishes our body daily. As we drink from the cup of love, the solvent flows from one to the next capturing the uniqueness of each participant. Then in the spirit of unity, the rivers of ideas converge. When water meets fire, like lava romancing the ocean, steam rises.
The child of water and fire flies freely in the sky. Wind, based on movement, flows with unending purpose. Sailing on the breath of our ancestors, the pulse of the wind drives us into action. Action for freedom, love, life, community…
The tree of life requires balance. There is a mutually beneficial relationship between human beings and trees. But the pendulum has shifted. What if the trees took a stand and marched for their rights? The March of the Trees is inevitable. The intricate root system that connects us is being severed. Without the trees, we lose our rivers, oxygen and soil. Will we find balance?
We can ultimately decide The Aftermath. It might take one or two… We can find balance within and nurture change in our community. Hopefully we can all work towards a better eco system. Not one primarily based on ego…
My thoughts on Amiri Baraka…
About ten years ago, my good friend Mr. Jim Harris heartbreakingly lost his life but not before introducing me to many elders in the DC area. Jim loved coming out to gigs to hear my trio. He invited many of his friends.
One of the elders, Mr. Tom Porter, took an interest in my playing. Tom would say “more people should know about your music.” When his friend Amiri Baraka came to town, Tom would hire my group to accompany Amiri Baraka. The first performance was at a house in NW DC where Amiri Baraka performed “Somebody Blew Up America.” He asked us to play Thelonious Monk’s “Misterioso” behind him and interact with the words he spoke.
Mr. Baraka was part of the band. He listened and shaped his lines like a great spontaneous composer.
I was blown away. I was familiar with some of his poems but at that moment I wanted to read his books. We had about five more engagements with Mr. Baraka including a function honoring activist Damu Smith. He left such an impact on me that I named one of my sons Baraka.
Whatever activist spirit I had in me before meeting Baraka, became intensified after meeting, listening, talking and internalizing. Thank you for sharing your light and truth with us.
2013 has been an amazing year filled with ups and downs. I learned a lot about love and determination.
In 2013, the music community suffered the loss of many great musicians but their contributions will live on in our hearts.
Today, I’m looking forward. I’m looking forward to lessons. I’m looking forward to precious moments. I’m looking forward to more music.
Thank you for your support, advice and love in 2013. Let’s have a great 2014 together.
Have you ever been to the ocean early in the morning and watched the sun rise? This question inspired a series of compositions titled “Elements of Life.”
Two weeks ago after a performance, I jokingly said “I should compose songs about the elements.” That joke turned into reality. The next night I could not sleep. I spent the night composing and developing songs based on the five elements.
I began with a thought. Then I explored the nature of our planet throughout human history.
There are three meanings behind the following tunes: Sky, Earth, Wind, Fire and Water.
First, I focused on the concept of God being everywhere. Why our planet is spared destruction? Just think…big planets regularly reroute comets and other materials that can destroy our home.
Then the second thought came from our time on this planet. I asked one simple question: Have we done more harm than good to our home?
My final thought is based on balance…
When these elements are in balance, we have a harmonious environment for growth. I was left with one question, “Are these elements in balance?”
In each of us, the elements are at work. Imagine if the human body was overly exposed to one element?
Over the next three months, the band and I will spend time seasoning the compositions at various performances. Then, we will head to the studio and explore the “Elements of Life.”
Sky (Aether) is all encompassing. Everything originated from this element.
Wind is based on movement. The energy that flows with unending purpose.
Fire is transformative. With fire, comes change.
Water is transportation. The universal solvent.
Earth is structure. The solid state of matter.
I remember a composer in Boston spending considerable time exploring rhythmic ideas from West African drumming. He then composed a song based on the ideas. Each musician was assigned a part. We had a difficult time reading and performing the music. The rhythms were complex and worth extensive cultural/musical study. My Caribbean upbringing made me familiar with some rhythms but further study was needed.
My study was personal because most western school systems value one culture over the next. Some musicians, in search of deeper musical understanding, take a western approach. As a musician, I think African music is worth our time and study. Gregorian Chants are not the beginning. Bantu singers did a great deal to inspire early European music. Furthermore, Africans in the West played a critical role in the development of modern music. The history of human beings on this planet has a sound track. Cultural bias has robbed us of music that once existed in various regions all over the world.
Many schools have entire sections dedicated to composers of one culture and lack resources needed to explore music from another. Lack of documentation? Not always the case. Not all resources were destroyed (or libraries burned)…
There are people researching. The information is providing a more accurate account of our musical journey. When we travel, we can still hear traces of traditional music. There are great books tracing modern day instruments back to the source. It is amazing to hear the circular motion. For example, African music inspiring other cultures and other cultures eventually inspiring African music. The story of music provides a wealth of knowledge. I will keep studying and applying what I learn to the music I perform.
Life is never without challenges. It is 4am and I’m between giving thanks for my blessings and planning a course of action to overcome obstacles.
In the last nine months with the help of family, friends and loving supporters, I’ve completed my bachelor’s degree, recorded a new album, been accepted to graduate school, released a new album and completed a successful mini tour.
This week, I officially start graduate school. During the registration/orientation process, I did a lot of reflecting.
There are so many personal and professional accomplishments to be thankful for but at times they can be overshadowed by challenges in life. As I grow, I’m getting better at standing up after a fall. Not letting the bumps in the road deter me from my ultimate goal.
Sometimes I’m asked, “Why do you say positive things frequently?” I firmly believe that we should never give energy to the negative things in life. Like everyone else, I’m challenged. I run into assholes when I walk out my front door. Assholes are everywhere. They seek energy to survive. Should I energize them?
Unlike assholes, life challenges stay with us until they are resolved. These challenges don’t define me but they can be draining. The more I focus on love, the more energy I have to peel away the layers of obstruction. My perception allows me to see a clear path to victory and not lose composure.
The life plan is still in its incipient stages. There’s still so much to do. Any challenge that exists now will only be a distant memory.
This time last year I was nowhere close to enjoying my recent blessings. The challenges that existed then are gone. I give thanks.
Life is never without challenges. With each test, comes growth. I’m living, loving and learning.