Lakay: A Soulful Journey Home Through Jazz and Haitian Roots
Mervin Toussaint : Lakay Review
Mervin Toussaint, a jazz saxophonist, and educator based in Philadelphia, is forging an eclectic and evolving musical vocabulary. Toussaint now unveils his debut full-length album, entitled Lakay. In Haitian Kreyol, “Lakay” signifies “home,” and this album embodies a voyage of exploration into profound connections with faith, community, ancestry, and kin from past, present, and future generations. By embracing his heritage’s cultural richness and jazz’s expressive potential, Toussaint has crafted a unique and impactful musical statement with Lakay. These eight original compositions showcase his artistic virtuosity and stands as a testament to the power of music to connect us to our roots, our communities, and our shared human experiences.
“Lakay” is an exquisite fusion of contemporary jazz and Haitian music influences, seamlessly blending the genres to create a captivating auditory experience. The groove is profoundly anchored in polyrhythmic textures and a persistent clave rhythm that propels the music forward. This invigorating piece radiates an unmistakable sense of spirituality and features an unforgettable melodic motif.
Toussaint’s saxophone solo is a remarkable display of emotional intensity and virtuosity. His improvisation unfolds organically, showcasing intricate melodic phrasing, harmonic explorations, and dynamic contrasts, demonstrating his musical intention and prowess. The ensemble’s tight interplay and rich timbral palette further enhance the overall impact of “Lakay,” solidifying its place as a compelling and innovative fusion of jazz and Haitian Christian church music.
In his deeply personal and evocative song “Tido,” Toussaint pays tribute to his late uncle Ti Degramme, whom he describes as a “pillar of empathy and strength.” Drawing inspiration from traditional Haitian Christian church music and modern jazz, the performance features complex polyrhythms and lively drums, providing a fitting backdrop for Toussaint’s heartfelt exploration of his uncle’s enduring impact on his life through the well-composed melody.
The groove-based bass part establishes a solid foundation for the music, which transitions seamlessly to a swing feel during the piano solo. This dynamic shift is further accentuated in the interlude, where the groove feel returns to support Toussaint’s own solo, showcasing his masterful ability to weave together motifs, strong melodic connections, and fluid rhythms influenced by jazz and African origins. Through “Tido,” Toussaint not only honors his uncle’s memory but also channels the qualities of empathy and strength that he aspires to embody, resulting in a moving and deeply resonant musical experience.
In his debut full-length album, Lakay, Philadelphia-based jazz saxophonist and educator Mervin Toussaint delivers an innovative and moving fusion of contemporary jazz and Haitian music influences. The album, whose title means “home” in Haitian Kreyol, explores profound connections with faith, community, ancestry, and kin. Toussaint’s artistic virtuosity shines through the album’s eight original compositions, as he expertly blends polyrhythmic textures and memorable melodies with expressive jazz improvisation. In addition, the ensemble successfully combines traditional Haitian music with modern jazz elements. Lakay stands as a testament to the power of music to connect us to our roots and shared human experiences, highlighting Toussaint’s unique and impactful musical statement.
October 14, 2022