In the 1940s, Frantz Casseus emigrated from Haiti to the U. S. because he wanted to meet Fats Waller.
That’s about as fine a reason to go someplace as I can imagine.
Sadly, the two men never met — Fats died about the time Casseus got to New York — but Casseus, a gifted classical guitarist and composer, went on to write and record some beautiful music of his own, adapting Haitian folk songs and styles to European classical traditions. “Frantz came here with the ambition to compose a distinctly Haitian classical guitar music,” wrote the guitarist Marc Ribot, for whom Casseus became a mentor. Casseus released three records on the Folkways label, creative and poignant works steeped in the rhythms, textures, and traditions of his native culture.
Here’s his 1954 album, Haitian Dances, my recommended listening for you on this cold weekend. It’s a short album: you can listen to it back-to-back-to-back, three times in a row, in about an hour. I’ve probably played it six or seven times already today.
P.S. It goes without saying. But thank God for Haiti and Haitians, and for Haitian-Americans — for Frantz Casseus, for example, and the wonders he wrought in this country, his second home.
2 thoughts on “Weekend Listening: Frantz Casseus’s “Haitian Dances””
I heard about these through Ribot after trying to find the album he recorded of solo Casseus pieces. Still haven’t heard that one, but found these after several years. They’re really great!
Cool. Hey, you should come to see Vandermark at the Jaybird on Jan. 30–a Tuesday, so plan ahead! He’s bringing his new band, Marker.
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