Marie Toussaint “The Haitian Jazz Sensation” is the name of the CD and what a wonderfully satisfying listening experience it is. These liner notes from jazz historian Stan Myers gives an idea of what’s in store for the listener.
As she so adroitly informs us on the opening cut of this debut recording, her name is Mari! A native of Brooklyn who has been singing, according to her, “all my life.” Born of Haitian parents, she brings that island’s truth and directness to her renderings. Miss Toussaint wrote lyrics for the first two tunes, “Mari’s Blues” and “Far Away”.
Mari has worked throughout the metropolitan area as well as abroad with some of the leading artists in jazz. Hearing her you would have to wonder (as I did why she hasn’t recorded before now. Listen to her on Duke’s “Don’t Mean a Thing,” followed by Ida Cox’s “Wild Women”… we are presented with a cross section of choice selections.
Lend an ear to Mari’s reading of Johnny Mercer’s lyrics on “I Remember You,” breathing new life into an old standard. The French-imported “Autumn Leaves” is presented in its native tongue by Ms. Toussaint displaying her knowledge of her parents’ language. Equally at home on ballads as well as up-tempos, Mari easily moves from one mood to the next. Jobim’s “Dindi” gives the special touch that completes the package.
Check out Coltrane’s “Niama” and hear the poetic, deep-feeling performance by the talented actress, writer, educator and activist Yaa Asantewa Nzingha. It is well- known that a singer depends greatly on musicians who can easily make or break a recording. Mari has shown extreme care and respect by her wisely chosen rhythm section.
Born in New York City, pianist Isaac ben Ayala was reading music and playing piano by the age of 7. He received his degree in classical piano and composition from Oberlin in Ohio. Working as music director and composer, playing with a ‘Who’s Who’ list of jazz artists, it is no wonder that he is one of New York’s most sought-after musicians. Listen to his Latin tinge on “Dimples”.
Using the bow, bassist Bryce Sabastien expertly displays an almost lost art in jazz. Pause for his arco work on “I Remember You”. Swoon as the rhythm takes you to another place. A Virgin Islands native, Bryce earned his undergrad degree from the Conservatory of Puerto Rico and master’s at New York University. Currently a member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, he has worked with the likes of Hamiet Bluett and Duke Jordan.
On drums we have another New Yorker, Ronnie Williams. He is a student on scholarship at Long Island University. Ronnie has worked throughout the United States as well as Europe with touring bands as well as vocalists.
And how about Sabor, master percussionist! Specialty…congas. He has performed with most of the leading lights in jazz, including work in films. Hear Sabor’s seasoned artistry on “Dindi” and “Dimples”. So there you have the picture. Mari, consummate vocalist, intelligent choice of material, and backed by some of the best talent available. It doesn’t get any better, trust me!
Stan Myers, Jazz Historian