Cochemea Gastelum knows that a few titles on his new solo album — including “Al-Mu’Tasim,” premiering exclusively below — might pique listeners’ curiosity. So let the Daptone Records house saxophonist explain….
“In Arabic it means ‘He who seeks shelter in God,'” Cochemea tells Billboard. The most exciting part of the track, however, was having Daptone co-founder Gabriel “Bosco Mann” Roth contributed parts on Gimbre, an African bass instrument. “Gabe has some northern African roots himself, Sephardic,” Cochemea explains. “His father brought him back this Gimbre from a trip to Morocco, and he really wanted to play it; When we were doing the sessions he was like, ‘I have this Gimbre I want to play.’ He came in with the bass line he had written on it and we improvised around that.” But the track wasn’t immediately finished.
“We played it during the first sessions for (the album) but I wanted to recut it for one reason or another,” Cochemea recalls. “For the second session I wrote this melody that came to me while I was listening to what we did before, so I put it on there and then everyone added their parts to it and we had the song.”
“Al-Mu’Tasim” is one of 10 tracks on All My Relations (pre-order here), Cochemea’s second solo album and first for Daptone. The project was born while he and Roth were out on Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings’ final tour during 2016, talking on the bus. “He said, ‘Let’s do a record,’ and it just started from there,” remembers the San Diego-raised Cochemea, who now resides in Woodstock, N.Y. Jones’ death during November of the year made All My Relations, due out Feb. 22, “healing in a way…It wasn’t anything we necessarily talked about, but it was healing for all of us, getting in the room together.” It didn’t take long before the project found a higher purpose, however. “What we did talk about was that we wanted to make music that was healing in a general sense, for the times we were in,” the saxophonist — who’s also played with Amy Winehouse, Antibalas, the Budos Band and Robert Walter’s 20th Congress and appeared in the musical Fela! — explains. “That’s a real big part of it, everything we’re seeing and all this division. We just wanted to address that with the music and make something that was healing.”
As the title implies, All My Relations also let Cochemea explore his genealogy, which include Yaquie and Mescalero Apache as well as “other mixed nations in there.” “I wanted to explore that part of myself through music,” he says. “So some of the titles that have indigenous names — ‘Maso Ye’eme,’ ‘Mitote,’ ‘Seyewailo’ — some of them refer back to my family history and were inspired by where my ancestors came from and my native ancestry.” In addition to his fellow Dap-Tones, All My Relations also features South African percussionist Sunny Jain.
Cochemea will play an official release show for All My Relations on March 22 at Nublu 151 in New York. Before that, however, is a 10-date West Coast run kicking off Feb. 19-20 at Zebulon in Los Angeles. “A lot of people have other things they’re doing, but I’m trying to get as many of the people as possible who are on the record to play live with me — certainly at the record release show in New York, and on tour I’ll be able to have at least a few,” Cochemea says. “It was such a talented, beautiful group of people. It’s a blessing to work with this crew, ’cause they were always trying to bring the right thing or the best thing to this. The whole thing just felt perfect.”