Jerry Leake produced his new album like a mad rhythm scientist. He was methodic and resourceful, precisely mixing and pouring one ingredient into the next. It could have ended in disaster with sonic fragments left strewn about haplessly…but it did not. Cubist (Rhombus Publishing; Jan 1, 2010) comes to life with mathematical precision and beauty where each composition resounds its exclusive musical “soul”. Cubist reflects and retracts not only music but also people and their experiences. “You can almost feel the characters living inside some of these creations,” Leake said of his latest work.
Imagine an “exotic” secret agent as he sprints through the Technicolor jungles of India, fueled by driving rock grooves rotating around a 10-beat tabla pattern. Picture the neon lights and gyration of dancers at nightclubs in the Caribbean: merengue grooves mingle with African drums, fiery piano duels percolating congas. Or, a modern jazz band swinging inside African drums, bells and shakers.
Like the Big Bang itself, initiation for Cubist came from within and outside of its benevolent explosion, conveyed in the life cycle of the Red Giant star called Aldeberan—the first track on the disc. Sensing complementary “big” orchestral sounds were necessary to tell the epic story of stellar life and death, Leake incorporated large concert bass drums, timpani, chimes and bells, plus immense tam tam and gongs. Jordan Hall at the New England Conservatory of Music provided an ample laboratory where, alone, story-teller and scientist emerged, mixing layers of sound to destroy the great star in both climax and rebirth.
Jerry began his percussion quest as a young boy. “I savored the discovery of connecting dots in my music to those in my life. I was able to see myself through the history of various drums and my own process of learning about each of them.” Gradually, Leake’s passion for percussion fuelled a hunger for exploration that led him to studies at Berklee College of Music, then India, Africa, and Latin America.
Over 30 years of experimenting, combining, and layering his personal and worldly musical history ‘discovery’ remains a central part of Jerry’s mission. “Everything I create is based on some integral and traceable origin,” said Leake. “I strive to add my own contemporary composing and arranging skills to find a common thread with the present into the past—a sort of future-ancient perspective where today has already become history.
It is no coincidence that the music in Cubist reinvigorates the concepts presented by the Cubist movement in the early 20th century. Like Picasso, Leake set out to represent each musical object—each theme, instrument, and influence—from all sides, in relation to the listener. As a result, a more profound musical awareness and aesthetic evolved with sounds that intertwine human experience with global music experience.
Jerry’s music envokes the entire body of the listener, not just the ears or the intellect. When listening to this new direction in contemporary music you can discern the unique methods to the rhythmic madness and invention of Cubist.
But don’t just listen to us:
“Cubist” by percussionist/vibist/ Jerry Leake is about as eclectic an album as you can make, but it does not tread lightly. Cubist is well informed on so many fronts that it is rather staggering. Many people attempt this kind of thing by virtue of sampling bits from various diverse musical traditions; not here, Jerry plays them all. I can relate at a certain level being an American who feels his duty is to follow his heart, but Jerry takes it a step further. Some tunes are purely in line with West Africa, some with north India and some with the Grateful Dead and more, but mostly the diverse musical ideas, forms and techniques in Mr. Leake's head have become a very evolved and complex tasting stew. If you take the time to really check it out you will find mastery on many levels. Only devotion and constant evolution in life and music could produce "Cubist: shapes of sound & time".
— Jamey Haddad, world percussionist with Paul Simon
Deep rooted grooves, concepts and ideas from a truly versatile and powerful Master of World Percussion!
— Tupac Mantilla, percussionist with Julian Ladge
“Cubist” is an intellectual and accessible CD from start to finish showcasing Jerry Leake’s incredible proficiency on a multitude of world percussion instruments. Each song has a unique mixture of soul and instrumentation. Truly a masterpiece by an amazing and inspirational musician.”
— Tom Ulichny, musician
Jerry seamlessly blends music from literally all over the world in a way only possible by a person with the hands of a percussion virtuoso and the mind of an artistic, creative composer…the album still has the improvisation and spontaneity that are the essence of jazz.
— Ben Paulding, musician
Jerry Leake crafts an alternate reality of sound that draws the listener in so compellingly that we barely notice all the labor and skill involved in its creation. The music creates a pure emotional landscape without resorting to any sentimentality or gimmicks; the sound is mathematically pure and precise.
— Sarah Noack, fan
As a dancer, I see music and all of the shapes, lines, spaces and synergies within the moving music molecules. “Cubist” sparks combustible creative energy, the context of which changes every time I encounter it. “Cubist” will certainly inspire interesting and novel choreographies, the world round.
— Onpoint, dancer
Jerry Leake teaches at the New England Conservatory and Berklee College of Music in Boston. To learn more about Jerry, his world-music CDs, and a library of authored percussion books visit: www.rhombuspublishing.com