Cochemea Gastelum is a musical journeyman who draws on ancestral memories and family histories to wrap new flesh around the bones of history.
In his 2019 Daptone debut All My Relations he combined musical inspirations from his Yaqui/Yoeme indigenous heritage with musical chops honed performing with the world’s premier soul/funk and jazz artists to present an exquisite meditation on the interconnection of all things. His 2021 follow-up, Vol II: Baca Sewa is a bold, semi-autobiographical work that leads us deeper into the archives of family history, mythology and the cultural imaginary.
Cochemea’s musical and spiritual synthesis is made possible through his deep reverence of the horn and of the music and traditions preceding him. He follows in the lineage of reed players who combine dexterity with inventiveness, creating expressive textures that make the horn sing in altogether new ways. Inspired by heroes like Eddie Harris, Yusef Lateef, Jim Pepper and Gary Bartz before him, Cochemea coaxes the flute and electric alto saxophone to forge his own joyous, melancholy, contemplative signature sound.
All My Relations was a family reunion of sorts, conjoining spirits, musicians, melodies and rhythms from his various worlds to define a contemplative, lyrical, and always funk-laced musical vision. Leading a nine-piece ensemble composed of New York’s top percussionists and members of Daptone’s rhythm section, Cochemea recombined ancient elements of drums, winds, and voice, creating his own world of emotional textures and rhythmic possibilities.
Critics and deejays received All My Relations with praise. To Cool Hunting, it was a “transcendent jazz experience.” Pitchfork wrote: “equal parts spiritual journey and irrepressible funk,” while Mojo gave the album four stars, noting, “the message of harmony and one-ness...is universal.”
The new album - Vol II: Baca Sewa - is a continuation of Cochemea’s explorations, part of a musical process of cultural reclamation and healing. This work reflects the deepening of his connections with family and keepers of memory in his bloodlines as he focuses on one particular line of his family tree. “Baca Sewa'' is Cochemea’s original family name prior to colonization. The melody was composed by Anthony Gastelum and features vocals and drumming by the Baca Sewa Singers- a group composed of several generations of family members. Vol II: Baca Sewa runs thick with sonic tributes and remembrances. “Chito’s Song” is a contemplative, ethereal tribute to a beloved uncle. “Curandera” conjures the memory of the irrepressible healing power of medicine women. “Black Pearl” recalls his great grandfather, heir to a legacy of indigenous peoples enslaved as pearl divers in the Sea of Cortez.
As a soloist, section player, and composer/arranger over the past twenty-five years, Cochemea has been featured with diverse and notable musical acts, from touring and recording with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Kevin Morby, Jon Batiste, Archie Shepp, Antibalas, Budos Band and Robert Walter's 20th congress, to performance and studio work for Mark Ronson, The Roots, David Byrne, Beck, Rick Rubin, and Quincy Jones among many others. Most recently, he is featured on “a few words for the firing squad (radiation)” on the acclaimed RTJ4, by Run The Jewels.
-Martín Perna, 2021