For 50 years I have studied and performed music of Africa and the African Diaspora: traditional drumming from Ghana, Martinique, Cuba, Brazil and other places, as well as popular styles such as Nigerian highlife and South African mbaqanga; Latin American son, salsa, cumbia, soca and samba; funk, R&B and zydeco; and jazz from New Orleans brass bands to avant-garde experimentation. In recent years I have begun exploring Balkan, Turkish and Arabic traditions. Major performers I have worked with include Baba Ken Okulolo & Kotoja, Orlando Julius, Zulu Spear, Tomás Rodriguez/Barry Kornhauser, Bel Alians and Plastic System Band (in Martinique), Joel Harrison, Eugene Uman, Samirah Evans, Iroko Nuevo, Bomba de Aquí, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, and the Pioneer Valley Arabic Orchestra.
Polar Bear Meltdown
I Remember It Differently
The One Who Makes You Happy
Kalman Ka Mode
Child Left Behind
Apprendiendo Como Amar
The King Dreams of Flying
Dig It Deeper
Love That Stumbles Across the Earth in Ecstasy
The Julian Gerstin Sextet explores traditional sounds through original, lyrical jazz compositions. Rhythms and styles from the Caribbean and the Arab world become new musical environments where the band’s jazz-honed improvisational skills take wing. Julian’s compositions are informed by a lifetime spent with music from around the world, living in the Caribbean, working with musicians from Cuba, Martinique, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Macedonia, Egpyt, Iran, Mexico, and Colombia. Featured are Anna Patton, clarinet (Dunham Shoe Factory, Elixir); Don Anderson, trumpet; Eugene Uman, piano (Sheila Jordan, Sonny Fortune, Bo Diddley); Wes Brown, bass (Earl “Fatha” Hines, Wadada Leo Smith, Fred Ho); Ben James, drums (John Tchicai, Olatunji); and Julian on percussion (Joel Harrison, Orlando Julius, Baba Ken Okulolo & Kotoja, Zulu Spear, Bomba de Aquí, Iroko Nuevo). Julian’s percussion features congas, bongó, and the tanbou bèlè of Martinique, a drum played with both hands and one foot.
This 2018 album celebrates the world’s crossroads cities, where immigrants and long-term residents mingle their traditions and new styles emerge. Today especially, we need to remember that creativity arises not by building walls, but through sharing our worlds. Mazurka from Fort-de-France, mambo and danzón from Havana, lesno and cocek from Sofia, cumbia from Bogota, tsamikos from Athens, and Latin grooves from the streets of San Francisco, are all spoken here.
“Full of joy and high-energy talent … the driving forces of the universe are quite
Dick Metcalf, Contemporary Fusion Reviews
“Uproarious and jubilant … sweet and strong like sugarcane”
Dee Dee McNeil, musicalmemoirs.com
THE ONE WHO MAKES YOU HAPPY
The Sextet’s first release (2017) consists of original compositions inspired by music of Martinique and Cuba, Turkey and Bulgaria, as well as grooves of Julian’s own invention. With Anna, Don, Eugene, Wes, Ben and Julian.
Songs range from the title ballad, a Bulgarian lesno, to the lively bèlè and danmyé rhythms of Martinique. The jazz rumba “Child Left Behind” is followed by “Apprendiendo Como Amar,” for which I wrote the lyrics, performed by myself and four of the SF Bay Area’s finest Cuban drummers and singers.
“Intoxicating … Joyful.”
“Far-ranging, wildly inventive, with more beats per minute than a street-side jackhammer … This has to be in the conversation for world album of the year.”
Hot Latin jazz for cold winter nights! Trio Mambo brings you the classic Latin trio of piano, bass and congas, grooving and rococo at the same time. Classics like “Mambo Influenciado” and “Come Candela” mingle with brash originals such as “Hunting Quayle With the Dick [Cheney]” and “Soukwé soukwé” (“Shake it, shake it!”), as well as gentler ballads and boleros. The trio features three veterans of New England jazz: Dan DeWalt on piano, Wes Brown on bass and Julian Gerstin on percussion.
Before Trio Mambo, the three bandmates had worked together for many years in various combinations, notably as the rhythm section of Cuban singer/percussionist William Rodriguez’ De Lomas y Sones. Their kindred spirits and delight in each other’s musicality led to the formation of Trio Mambo, and make their performances both lively and intimate.
Pianist/trombonist Dan DeWalt has led the jazz group Green Mountain Mambo, is a founding member of the beloved world beat ensemble Simba, and is a trombonist with Latin big band Joe Velez y Creación and the Vermont Jazz Center Big Band. Dan’s live, original piano accompaniments for Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times” and other classic silent films have become must-see events in southern Vermont.
Bassist Wes Brown cut his professional teeth at age eighteen with two years on the road with legendary pianist Earl “Fatha” Hines. Wes went on to study music at Wesleyan College and to perform and record with Wadada Leo Smith, Fred Ho’s Afro-Asian Ensemble. He is an original member of royal hartigan’s Blood Drum Spirit, and performs with Matan Rubenstein and many other jazz artists. Wes has taught bass in several New England colleges.
Percussionist Julian Gerstin specializes in African and Caribbean traditions and popular styles, as well as jazz. His credits include stints with experimental jazz composer Joel Harrison, afrobeat legends Orlando Julius and Baba Ken Okulolo, Cuban folkloric ensemble Iroko Nuevo and Puerto Rican folklore ensemble Bomba de Aquí, and Dan’s Green Mountain Mambo. Julian also currently leads his own group, the JG Sextet (Wes is the group’s bassist) and is studying composition at the Vermont Academy of Fine Arts.
Trio Mambo is available for teaching and workshops in high schools, colleges and community venues. Julian’s PhD research in Martinique led to numerous academic publications, and he has enjoyed a long career in both college and community teaching. Wes has taught bass at several New England universities.
Afrobeat, ska and classic funk in this band’s unquenchable repetoire. A tight rhythm
section with ripping horn solos and soulful vocals.
Bomba is part of Puerto Rico’s African heritage, brought “here” (Springfield MA) by dancer Brendaliz Cepeda-Peñalosa, drummer Saul Peñalosa, and friends. I’m honored to join this group’s celebration of their heritage. The dancing is joyous, the lyrics moving and proud, and the drumming powerful.
Bomba de Aquí maintains an active schedule of classes and workshops in the Springfield/Holyoke schools and performs for festivals, weddings, saint’s days, fundraisers, and other community events. The group is available for residencies and workshops throughout New England and New York.
Bomba de Aquí’s demo CD is available in the shop.
For more info and booking, contact Brendalíz at email@example.com.
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In addition to composing all the music for the Julian Gerstin Sextet and some of the music for the Trio Mambo collective, I write for percussion ensembles, theater and dance companies, and other instrumental combinations. I am proud to have recently earned an MFA in Music Composition from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2020.
A partial list of performed and recorded work includes:
Sandglass Theater “Rock the Boat” (2020)
Mobius Percussion “Sisters, Sons, Seas, Sins, Dwarves, Heavens, Wonders” (2020)
“Hexaplex” for percussion quintet (2020)
Hub New Music “Suite: I Started Looking” for flute, clarinet, violin and cello (2019)
Sandglass Theater “Babylon: Stories of Refugees” (2017)
“Wind Carries the Raft” (2017) for tenor saxophone and marimba
“The Real Dr. Love Shark” for Keene State College Percussion Ensemble (2017)
“Cycle of Leaves” for Western Kentucky University Percussion Ensemble (2014)