Medina's third album of original work fuses jazz harmonies with raga-based melodies from India and polyrhythms from Ghana to create a new and exciting soundscape. Musically adventurous and socially conscious, this genre-bending CD sounds like no other.
JOCELYN MEDINA is a jazz artist whose compositions encompass the musical ethos of many different cultures. Her newest CD, COMMON GROUND, fuses jazz harmonies with raga- based melodies from India and polyrhythms from Ghana to create a new and exciting soundscape.
Medina is a New York-based jazz singer, composer, and lyricist. Her musical explorations have led her to travel to Brazil, Ghana, and most recently to India where she performed and studied while teaching full-time at a music school in Mumbai. She recorded her first CD, The Journey Begun, in 2005 in Madrid, where she lived for four years. Her second CD, We Are Water, which she released in 2011, topped national and international jazz radio charts. COMMON GROUND, her third CD, continues her journey across continents and cultures.
Medina had begun working on this project in 2013 when the opportunity to teach in India fell into her lap. She had just a few short weeks to prepare for a trip that would upend her life, but with her inquisitive nature and expansive view of music, she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to immerse herself in another culture. She decided to put the recording on hold until she got back home.
Medina spent six months in Mumbai, soaking up the culture, teaching, performing, and studying Hindustani voice with a local teacher. The sounds and sights were all so different from her past experiences, and the dire poverty was a shock to her system. The trip affected her profoundly. According to Medina, “I wasn’t the same when I returned from that adventure. My head was filled with new images and a new way of thinking about my music. I wasn’t sure what to do next. I actually had a hard time adjusting to being home.”
With the urging of her friend, tabla master Samir Chatterjee, Medina decided to re-visit the tunes she had already written. She worked with Robert Levin, percussionist and co-producer of her previous CD, to incorporate Indian-inspired textures to create something very different than she had ever done before. Levin also encouraged Medina to write new compositions that reflected her new mindset.
Medina wrote and arranged all the compositions on this CD. The music required A-List musicians who could adapt to the fusion of styles, so she brought on board a select group of old friends and new musical compatriots. STEVE GORN is an expert in Indian music and plays the bansuri, which is a wood flute found in ￼India and Nepal. Flutist HADAR NOIBERG is known for her ability to seamlessly fuse jazz and world music. PETE MCCANN plays electric and acoustic guitar and has been a popular sideman in innumerable jazz and jazz/rock line-ups for over 25 years. ART HIRAHARA is a jazz pianist and composer who honed his craft performing music from the traditional to the avant-garde. EVAN GREGOR is an in-demand acoustic and electric bassist who works with many well-known artists in a wide variety of genres. MARK FERBER is a very busy, highly respected jazz drummer who shuttles between Coasts. Virtuoso tabla player SAMIR CHATTERJEE, Medina’s old friend and teacher, travels widely around the world performing in festivals as a soloist and with other outstanding musicians from both Indian and western musical traditions. Percussionist ROBERT LEVIN, the co-producer of this CD, performs regularly in Broadway’s The Lion King, and is a specialist in Ghanaian music.
Medina has a pure, fluid voice that’s sometimes reminiscent of Flora Purim and sometimes of Joni Mitchell, but she clearly has her own style. Her lyrics reflect the influence of a Buddhist worldview and a strong social consciousness. Medina says, “I don’t make up stories. My lyrics grow from the things I observe, from the flow of humanity, and from just living in New York City.”
The opening number, “Two But Not Two,” was inspired by the Buddhist concept of the duality of all things. The song features a duet with Hindustani vocalist ACHYUT JOSHI. A common phrase in Buddhism, “Two But Not Two” refers to our inter-connections to all people and to all nature.
“Common Ground” is the title and theme of the CD. It’s a celebration of the commonality between all people despite our differences in culture, identity, and political views. Medina says, “As to the arrangement, all the spices were thrown into that pot. All of the instruments are featured, and stylistically the tune encompasses India, Africa, and jazz. There’s a backbeat groove that builds as the instruments enter.”
Medina wrote two of the songs after her time in India. One of them, “Meant To Be,” is based on Raag Jog, a type of Hindustani raga, or characteristic pattern of notes, used in Indian Classical music. Unlike typical jazz standards, this song opens and closes with an improvisational section. The lyrics were inspired by the crushing poverty she witnessed in Mumbai. “Simple” is another song Medina wrote after returning home. It has a lyric- less melody based on Raag Vridavani Sarang, another type of Hindustani raga.
“Sink Or Swim” is perhaps the most musically complex composition on the CD. It incorporates jazz harmonies that are played over different African syncopations. The lyrics were inspired by Hurricane Sandy, the devastating storm that affected millions of people on the East Coast in 2012. Medina wrote the song after she saw the courage of many of her friends who lost so much in the storm but were determined to re-build and move on with their lives.
Jocelyn Medina is a unique vocalist and storyteller. Her voice is seductive and delicate, resonant and crystalline. Musically adventurous and socially conscious, COMMON GROUND does not sound like any other jazz album. With top-notch musicianship and genre-bending arrangements, this CD is in a class by itself.
From the artist:
"From healing broken bones and family bonds, to feeling hope beneath the weight of heavy burdens, I am deeply moved by the power of the human spirit--a theme that runs throughout the lyrics of these songs.
I felt this resilient life force in the people of India, where I found both my spirit and musical identity reinvented. The raga-inspired melodies in many of these compositions grew from my exposure to their culture, while the polyrhythmic music of Ghana influenced the grooves and metric explorations of other tunes. Back in New York City, the diversity of each daily interaction has helped me deepen my understanding of myself and of others, and recognize the common connection that ties us all together.
In my attempt to make the personal universal, I share these musical stories with you and hope that something in the words and sounds resonates with your own experience. Thank you for listening."
Steve Gorn bansuri--flute (1,2,3,6)
Hadar Noiberg--flute (2,5,7,8,9)
Pete McCann--electric & acoustic guitar
Art Hirahara--piano & rhodes
Samir Chatterjee--tabla (1,2,3,6,9)
Robert Levin--percussion (2,5,8)
Achyut Joshi--vocals (1)