The Curtis Brothers
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The Curtis Brothers

Band Latin Jazz


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"Insight at Rockwood Music Hall"

The fiery Latin Jazz septet Insight made a rare New York appearance at the Loisaida's Rockwood Music Hall (Dec. 1st) to play music from their critically acclaimed new CD A Genesis. Co-led by Zaccai and Luques Curtis, on piano and bass respectively, the group exhibited one of the most exciting sounds on the scene today, distinguished by tightly-played serpentine arrangements that melded memorable melodies, sophisticated harmonies and a dazzling array of AfroCarribean rhythms. Opening with a new piece, Justice, began with a warm solo bass recital which gradually built in intensity as the piano introduced a pretty optimistic melody and the percussive interplay of drummer John Davis and conguero Reinaldo De Jesus set down the incendiary rhythm. By the time the riffing horn section of trumpeter Philip Dizack, altoist Chris Allen and tenor saxophonist Frank Kozyra joined in, the house was ablaze with excitement. Four songs from the groups album clearly displayed the distinguished composing and arranging abilities of Zaccai, particularly the beautifully sanguine Necessity and the dramatic Story In Three. An original arrangement of The Panamanian Murga and the dedication Hilton's Rumba demonstrated the pianist inventive use of traditional rhythms, allowing the groups stellar soloists to show off their impressive chops. On the final number, Descarga, several players from the audience joined in for an electrifying finish.

~ Russ Musto - All About Jazz

"Insight reviewed in Jazzwise Magazine, May 2009"

Last month we reviewed tenorman Albert Rivera’s “Re-Introduction”, which featured the Curtis Brothers, Zaccai and Luques in straightahead mode. Insight is the brothers’ Latin jazz group with a distinctive sound and concept. Apart from two short sharp all-percussion blasts, all the compositions are by the remarkably talented and versatile Zaccai and combine elements of North American jazz mixed in with lessons learned from Africa, Puerto Rico, South and Central America and especially Cuba. On most tracks, it is first and foremost an harmonically fresh, warm-sounding jazz unit, which subtlely and seamlessly morphs into an intensely heated, hard-hitting Latin band of the highest calibre. A perfect example is the opening “The Resusitation”, which features Jimmy Greene’s tenor starting out gently, then building a terrific solo, then gliding away again and, before you know it, a relentless Latin groove, spurred on by a tight, take-no-prisoners rhythm section, has taken over the rest of the track. A few are Latin from the off, one with a funk section which appears from nowhere, then turns into something else again. There are moving solos by Gonzales, Greene on soprano as well as tenor, Lucas and Allen, but it’s the band’s sound and concept with its striking use of dynamics and Zaccai’s tunes, scores and spirited piano solos (unaccompanied on the closing tender heartfelt “Sudan and Darfar”) which make this such an attractive and addictive album. Check out “Necessity” and the possible highspot “The Truth Shall Set You Free”. Thoroughly recommended. - Jazzwise Magazine

"Insight’s "A Genesis" reviewed by Chip Boaz"

There are several different roads that an artist may travel in order to create a unique Latin Jazz voice. Some musicians follow the established formula, repeating the success of genre “legends.” While these artists may present a different slant, they basically follow their hero’s path to musical artistry. Other artists shape their sound around a more unique approach, delving into influential musicians that sat outside the genre’s popular success stories. This route involves a deeper study and often results in a more challenging musical experience. Still, the artist develops a voice that follows a leader rather than makes the way into new territory. A smaller group of musicians look into several challenging musical avenues, and combine these influences into an original direction. This involves more than just study and recreating an approach; it requires the difficult task of finding connections between concepts while staying true to tradition. The Curtis brothers and their band Insight take this road less traveled on A Genesis, bringing together a variety of influences into a modern Latin Jazz sound.

Latin Structures With Modern Jazz Approaches
Some tracks contain traditional Latin structures, but develop a unique character through the inclusion of modern jazz approaches. Pianist Zaccai Curtis plays a series of assertive chords to establish the Cha Cha Cha “Necessity,” as the winds display a wide dynamic range on the melody. Saxophonist Jimmy Greene begins his solo with understated phrases, until the rhythm section pushes him into a series of intensive runs and high register screams. After a quick return to the melody, Luques Curtis introduces a bass line that serves as the foundation for a strong solo from conguero Reinaldo De Jesus. The band creates an open spiritual feel over a rumba guaguanco on “Hilton’s Rumba,” their tribute to the late Latin Jazz pianist Hilton Ruiz. After a spacious melody, Zaccai furiously improvises through the minor blues, employing a variety of sequences to build tension. Greene immediately jumps into a series of quick runs, until saxophonist Kris Allen presents dissonant notes and tense rhythms. Luques explores the rhythmic possibilities within the rhythmic structure, shaping his melodies around percussive ideas. After revisiting the melody, Zaccai storms into an up tempo montuno, paving the way for a powerful mambo and solo from De Jesus. A strong bass line opens “The Panamanian Murga,” which is soon doubled by the winds. Zaccai combines rhythmic tipico phrasing with modern melodic choices, while Luques pushes the rhythmic texture in polyrhythmic directions as the brothers trade solo ideas. Saxophonist Zach Lucas complements the light dynamic with a carefully developed solo, giving way to a mambo based upon contemporary melodic ideas. These songs maintain their strong ties to Latin Jazz history, yet the complex harmonies and aggressive improvisational approaches reflect a thorough study of modern jazz.

Moving Outside The Norm
Several compositions experiment with ideas outside the norms of the Latin Jazz tradition. Greene and Lucas present a gentle introductory melody that explodes into a rhythmic vamp on “A Story in Three.” As the band moves into trumpet player Joel Gonzalez’s exploratory solo, the rhythm section settles into a 9 beat groove that explores both son and funk. Soon the band breaks into a funky beat that serves as the basis for an intriguing moña, broken by Zaccai’s frenetic montuno and a double time rhythm section feel. Greene boldly works through this intensive texture, ending the song on a strong note. Luques and Zaccai explore a more conversational approach on the duet “Sudan and Darfur.” While Zaccai plays a contemplative melody, Luques alternates between rhythmic figures and spontaneous runs. Zaccai establishes a piano ostinato for Luques’s improvisation on scalar ideas and rhythmic power. The two musicians disappear to a whisper as they reintroduce the melody, relishing in the space and freedom of this smaller setting. The odd meter swing of “The Truth Shall Set You Free” serves as the foundation for a sly but powerful melody. Zaccai playfully moves rhythms through the odd time, relying both on his keen sense of swing and vast rhythmic vocabulary. Greene takes his time building his solo from a spacious conversation into a spiritual burn. These pieces reflect the group’s exploration of different musical approaches outside Latin Jazz, and their ability to bring these worlds together.

Unique Personality With A Link To Tradition
Other songs alter the Latin structures just enough to create a unique personality, but keep them rooted in tradition. Zaccai and Luques create a vamp while the drummers play a unique version of Afro-Cuban 6/8 on “The Making.” Zaccai glides through this feel with a strong melodic sensibility, until the drummers disappear into an open space. The group returns with a double time 6/8, setting the stage for Luques’ polyrhythmic improvisation. The band soon intensifies the rhythm section approach beneath Greene and Lucas, maintaining a strong drive to the end of the song. Zaccai’s keyboard opens “In The Spirit of JR” with a mellow tone, moving into a unique twist on a bolero rhythm. The electronic keyboard sound provides a beautiful texture behind Luques’ solo, which transitions into a traditional piano solo. Greene delivers an intoxicating soprano sax solo that unsettles the relaxing feel with cutting lines. A complex interplay of rhythm section attacks and melodic writing opens “Ulterior Motive.” Drummer Richie Barshay breaks into an aggressive funk while Zaccai conjures a Herbie Hancock influence, until the band returns to a Latin feel for the solo’s completion. Lucas furiously improvises through the up-tempo feel, drawing an interesting interplay out of the drummers. Each of these tracks move the band in a distinct musical direction, while building its structure upon a Latin Jazz foundation.

A Journey Towards The Future
Insight takes a challenging path throughout A Genesis, and the distinctly modern Latin Jazz approach sets them apart from their contemporaries. Their intensively interactive improvisations and advanced melodic concepts reflect an influence from Miles Davis’ 1960’s quartet and beyond. The compositional structures are complete and the arrangements intricately formatted, but the performance concept demonstrates an emphasis on freedom and acute personal expression. A fiercely authentic use of Afro-Cuban rhythms displays the band’s strong roots in the genre and a full study of the music’s history. The band bravely alters some rhythmic styles through the use of odd time signatures, yet they always prioritize stylistic integrity. This allows them to experiment over a foundation that demands total respect for the genre. By taking a challenging and original road towards a musical statement, Insight has created a personalized performance style that pushes Latin Jazz on a journey towards the future.

Insight has been nominated for a Latin Jazz Best of 2007 Award in the Next Generation category! Vote Today! - The Latin Jazz Corner

"Litchfield Jazz Festival"

November 2008

Litchfield Jazz Festival
August 1–3, 2008
By Ariel D. Teitel

On Friday August 1, the festivities began with Paquito D’Rivera and the Zaccai Curtis Trio. The trio is composed of three former Litchfield campers - all now first rate touring professionals: Zaccai on piano, his brother Luques Curtis on bass and
Richie Barshay on drums. They played an energetic set with impeccable timing. D’Rivera was quite pleased with them-as was the crowd. This was followed by Bebe
Neuwirth and Scott Cady on piano. This was really a cabaret set, featuring much music by Kurt Weill, Kander and Ebb and Sondheim. Much of the audience expected
jazz and exited. Ms. Neuwirth’s voice has lost something on the bottom end, but her expression and dramatic feel for the songs was touching.
- JazzImprov


Christian Scott: Rewind
Christian Scott: Anthem
Papo Vasquez: The Mighty Pirates
Chick Corea: 5 Trios
Fred Hersch Pocket Orchestra: Live at Jazz Standard
The Richie Barshay Project w/ Special Guest Herbie Hancock
Sean Jones: The Search Within
Sean Jones: Kaleidoscope
Sean Jones: Roots
Insight: A Genesis
Albert Rivera: Re-Introduction
Lummie Spann: Live & Direct
Natalie Fernandez: Insanity
Ed Fast: Straight Shot
Donald Harrison: Survivor
Dave Valentin: Come Fly With Me

Yes, there has been radio play on many of these albums.



Most quartets today consist of a horn and rhythm section. Rhythms are taken from literally all over the world and mixed and composed through a rarely seen jazz quartet combination. They follow in the footsteps of Herbie Hancock, Red Garland, Noro Morales, Art Blakey, Duke Ellington, and Dizzy Gilepsie, who have all focused on the percussion at on point. Africa is the essence of jazz and that is where "Rhythmic Prophecies" takes it. Their unique rhythmic concept is what separates them from most any other jazz quartets. All of their music, original or not, is based on the percussive concepts that they have accumulated throughout their experiences. Some
of Rhythmic Prophecies' music is so original that even great musicians such as Ralph Peterson has performed arrangements with his own , "Ralph Peterson's Fo'tet." Since 2001 "Rhythmic Prophecies" have been performing around the world from the U.S. to India.

Performing regularly in the New York and East Coast jazz scene, the Curtis Brothers are on a mission to create music that not only moves your soul but awakens the sense of awareness to what surrounds us politically and socially. They are on a mission to entertain and inspire listeners to think outside the box, not only about Latin jazz but about the change that is everywhere. Their social awareness and desire to create new music only makes a listener that much more engaged and the more one listens, the more they discover. Check out the Panamanian Murga or Hilton's Rumba, which has been on Puerto Rico's top 20 list. They are undeniably on their way to the top!