Words by Jesse Serwer—
Out next week via Strut Records from the U.K., Haiti Direct is one of the first internationally available in-depth explorations of Haitian music from the early ‘60s through the late ‘70s, tracking the transition from the big band era to the compas explosion. In addition to early material from giants like Tabou Combo, Haiti Direct also sheds light on forgotten and lesser known footnotes like Les Loups Noirs, whose “Pile Ou Face,” from 1972 and the album Les Loups Noirs à New York, Strut have given us to “premiere.”
Here’s the breakdown courtesy of compilation producer Hugo Mendez (Strut, Soulfrito Soundsystem):
Led by charismatic singer Gardner Lalanne, Les Loups Noirs (The Black Wolves) were extremely popular in the ’70s, touring extensively and recording across the Caribbean and in New York and Paris. ‘Pile ou Face’ (‘Heads or Tails’) is an uncharacteristically experimental instrumental that layers saxophones, swirling organ—and, eventually, Lalanne’s manic ad libs—over a rolling compas beat. It’s a great demonstration of the way that the timbales and percussion sections of the big bands were being replaced by stripped-back cowbell and kick drum at the beginning of the ‘70s.
For more sounds from Haiti Direct, check Super Jazz Des Jeunes’ big band x rara fusion “Cote Moune Yo” here.