Berta Moreno

Berta Moreno — Tumaini

Tumaini, the new album by Madrid-born, New York-based saxophonist and composer Berta Moreno is an uplifting and joyous musical journey that takes listeners on a tour of Kenya. Informed by the bandleader’s life-changing experience volunteering in the Kawangware region several years ago, this heart-led new release intertwines elements of soul, jazz, and traditional African styles.

Joining Moreno is a multicultural outfit she calls the Afro-Jazz Soul Project made up of a versatile rhythm section featuring bassist Maksim Perepelica from Latvia and Raphaël Pannier from France, Argentinian percussionist Franco Pinna, pianist and keyboardist Manuel Valera from Cuba, and vocalist Alana Sinkëy from Guinea-Bissau.

Tumainiwhich is Moreno’s sophomore album and the follow-up to her critically acclaimed Little Steps, takes inspiration from a life-changing experience Moreno had in Kenya several years back when she visited and worked with the children of the Kawangware neighborhood — one of the most economically challenged locales in the country — through the Little Ray of Hope School.

The eight original compositions (all written and composed by Moreno) on Tumaini (which means “Hope” in Swahili), are directly inspired by this resilient community and particularly the children, whose positive outlook and joyous attitude deeply moved Moreno. The resulting work is a powerful and profound narrative that takes listeners on a journey through Africa’s Savannah landscapes and sunsets to the heart of Kawangware. Much of the music maintains an uplifting tone, deriving its momentum from the use of rhythmic ideas that can be found in the music of East Africa and juxtaposing it over contemporary jazz concepts of harmony and melody.

Throughout the album Moreno plays a dynamic role, often switching between improvising over the forms, doubling written parts, playing harmony parts to other instrumentalists, and playing backgrounds, showcasing her ability to think of the saxophone in a broader function than just a soloist.

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