Brothers Luques (bass) and Zaccai Curtis (piano) follow in the rich family tradition of jazz. Jazz music has frequently been the family tie that binds. And as with the Curtis Brothers, those are also siblings that recorded and performed together. Based on the brilliance of Completion of Proof, clearly Luques and Zaccai Curtis have joined that auspicious tradition.
Significant clues to the Curtis Brothers desire for self-determination can be found in not only the declarative title of this date – Completion of Proof, but also in the bold moniker they’ve chosen for their record label, Truth Revolution. There is an obvious sense of the Curtis Brothers on a quest for artistic truth, and in the case of their label they’re just as obviously seeking freewill in the business side of their recorded life as well. In this time of artists eschewing the tired, old pie-in-the-sky sense of waiting for a mythical record “deal,” Luques and Zaccai have clearly set out on a path of autonomy on the recorded side of their respective and collective careers.
For Completion of Proof, the Curtis Brothers have enlisted a powerhouse crew of musicians – many of whom serve as mentors to the Curtis Brothers – including drummer Ralph Peterson, Jr., Brian Lynch on trumpet, and their Artist Collective mentor, Jimmy Greene on saxophones. The date also includes alto saxophonist “Big Chief” Donald Harrison. It was Harrison who gave the Brothers their first touring band experience.
“He really showed us how to act, play, and what not to do on the road,” says Zaccai. The underrated fire-breathing saxophonist Joe Ford “has always been an influence from a very early age.” The brothers play in Lynch’s band and alongside Ford with Jerry González Fort Apache Band as occasional subs for Andy González and Larry Willis. Percussionists Rogerio Boccato, Pedro Martinez, and Reinaldo De Jesus help bring further folkloric Pan African flavor to the date.
In developing this venture the brothers had this group of mentors in mind. “We wrote all the music to fit this band,” says Zaccai in a news release. “We thought of the sound of each band member and tried to feature each one in the music. We set a date and nailed the music at the studio; no rehearsals and all within 1 or 2 takes! These guys are really the best jazz musicians alive, and we are honored to be blessed with their presence on this recording.”
Asked how their background and upbringing influenced the sundry aspects of Completion of Proof, Zaccai referred to the date as “American Classical Music in every way. Jazz is an interesting study to me. It is a science in all respects, but “soul” is the base. We named the CD Completion of Proof or in Latin Q.E.D. – quod erat demonstrandum – because this is how scientists indicated that they have proved their theory correct.”
For the Curtis Brothers, Completion of Proof is an affirmation of the basic root sources of jazz. Their music is rife with the blues, swing rhythms in recognition of the Africa-Caribbean-New Orleans lineage, and the basic core elements that make the music such a spicy, hard bop melting pot. In many ways, the music on Completion of Proof is for the Curtis Brothers a refutation of what they view from some of their peers as a denial or dismissal of those root sources.
“Fast forward to today’s modern jazz, and you are lucky to hear just one of those elements come from a performance or recording,” Zaccai said. “Blues harmonies seem to be replaced with simplified classical harmonies. Drums and rhythms have been mixed down in the modern recording so you can barely hear them! Swing has been ripped from the music. In most cases there are no elements of the jazz language… never mind bebop!
“This CD is a response to this modern, swing-less, no-language – ‘jazz’ – that the labels are pushing, just like the Hard Bop response to Cool Jazz in the ’50s and ’60s.”