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MINAN

DYA

 

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From the power of Afro-Cuban music to the elegance of a Brazilian choro; from the high energy of American funk and jazz to the seductive power of the Brazilian samba and the Cuban danzo, every performance of Minan-Dya is an exciting and emotional journey.

 

Minan-Dya (mee-nan, dee-ah_, literally meaning "breath-shadow" are two separate words in the Minianka language (Mali, West Africa) that represent Soul when used together. Minan-Dya was created by flutist Kristopher Keith to showcase what the flute has to offer within the jazz idiom.

The unique sound of this group stems not only from its repertoire, but from its other instrumentation as well. The sound of woodwinds (flutes/tenor sax), strings (guitar/bass/piano), and percussion (congas/drums) brings to life the music of the Americas in a way that is both intimate and powerful.

 

The influences of these talented musicians are vast and when combined, merge into something beyond itself: Minan Dya

 

The Pied Piper of Columbus

Reprint from Columbus Alivewired, April 2001

If Columbus jazz fans were rodents, Kris Keith and his flute would have led us all away long ago. Latin Jazz Project, Keith’s latest release with his band Minan-Dya, is a well-executed, multi-cultural rat trap of style and talent following the path of American musicians like Weather Report and Horace Silver.

Keith’s talent is featured by a number of local Latin groups, including Minan-Dya, Yumbambe, Brasileira and Greg Loughman. An impressive line-up of personnel returns the favor on Latin Jazz Project, with Tim Cumminsky, Daniel Kelly, Scott Gold and others appearing on the album.

The first song, Chamambop, is probably short for cha-cha, mambo and bebop. The song combines a mambo rhythm with a bebop head and a cha-cha section—followed by awe-inspiring guitar work from Cumminsky—all evoking the Cuban danzon, an up-tempo Cuban dance style of the 1940s.

Guitarist Jeff Ray and Keith’s arrangement of the Randy Weston tune High Fly again mixes Latin and North American elements by incorporating an Afro-Cuban rhythm with the song’s swing melody. The laid-back tempo combined with a more hustling samba feel creates a nice contrast for this song. Kelly’s piano solo really stands out and, like other solos on this song, evokes jazz to emphasize yet another stylistic contrast.

Moving from the tonal to ear-piercing visceral wrangling is the tune Kan’s Klang. Keith wrote this song in tribute to the late artist Wassily Kandinsky and, to inspire the group, the musician passed around a copy of Kandinsky’s painting Improvisation 19. Keith uses a technique that other great musicians have used for bridging the different energy wave lengths of the visual and the sonic. Wayne Shorter and other musicians have supposedly used visual art as an inspirational vehicle when composing and improvising music.

After listening to Latin Jazz Project, you may not be surprised to see Keith being followed by rodents, in a sure sign that he’s Columbus’ Pied Piper. At least using the flute beats all those inhumane traps and poisons.

—Arvin Donner