Mervin Toussaint, Lakay Review
by Jeff Becker
Mervin Toussaint is a jazz saxophonist and educator in Philadelphia, making a diverse and expanding musical language. Toussaint is now releasing his debut full-length album called Lakay. “Lakay” means “home” in Haitian Kreyol, and this album is a journey of discovering meaningful relationships in religion, community, heritage, and family members of the past, present, and future. Toussaint honors these relationships with his unique music rooted in his upbringing in the Haitian Christian Church and his devotion to the aural tradition associated with jazz music.
The title track, “Lakay,” opens the album, and instantly you can hear the Haitian influence on Toussaint’s jazz viewpoint. The music is rhythmically diverse, with cross-rhythms and melodies that sound like a cross between Haitian folk music and jazz. Toussaint’s use of intervallic expertise and impeccable accentuations give his solo focus and momentum. The ensemble exhibits constant interplay between the rhythm team and the soloist. The composition is balanced, and the playing is unhesitant and robust throughout.
“For Lor” is an incredibly dynamic track with Church spices, pure synchronicity, and juxtaposed intensities in the compositional form. The song develops to reveal a brightly-hued ascendant movement and succinct individual initiatives during Toussaint’s solo. “For Lor” is a marvelous marriage of church and jazz.
Lakay introduces Toussaint as a well-rounded musician of poetic presence and richness of timbre and cultural sonics. Toussaint transmits an infectious magnetism in his music that will continue to garner fans and be an exciting journey to follow as his album catalog grows.