The composer says:
Several musical threads led to my writing this piece of music to celebrate my friend Matanya Ophee’s (AKA MO) 80th birthday - a life lived with the guitar. Jelly Roll Morton once asserted: “In fact, if you can't manage to put tinges of Spanish in your tunes, you will never be able to get the right seasoning; I call it, for jazz.” Over the last couple of years I moved back to Jelly Roll Morton’s city: New Orleans, home of my adolescence and reacquainted myself with the tinges of Spanish in its rich musical heritage. One of these pieces was the Mardi Gras Mambo, an iconic song frequently played during Mardi Gras and, in David Newman’s reworking of the lyrics, at the New Orleans Saints football games as the Super Bowl Mambo. Uncited sources on both Wikipedia and Essortment say the word Mambo means “conversation with the gods” in Kikongo, the language spoken by Central African slaves taken to Cuba where it became the name for a musical form and a dance style that developed originally in Cuba in the able hands of Cachao’s (Bassist Orestes Lopez) tune: Danzon Mambo. This rhythmic style became famous in the 1950’s following its use in dance bands in Mexico and through New Orleans to the United States. The infectiousness of the New Orleans re-interpretation of the Mambo’s ostinato bass line and the reaction of people who are readily moved to dance when they hear it spoke to me of dance and celebration. This led me to choose some of this piece’s characteristics and title for this piece: Mambo for MO.
As we have progressed on the instrument, some of us may have encountered the four-chord descending minor chord progression known as the Andalusian cadence: i - VII - VI - V in many different genres and guises. After all, it appears in Ray Charles’ Hit the Road, Jack, the verse on Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys, Walk, Don’t Run by The Ventures, Runaway by Del Shannon and in that great work arranged and embraced by the Guitar: J.S. Bach’s Chaconne from the Partita in D minor for solo violin, BWV 1004. This bass line derived from a Latin American musical style as reinterpreted in New Orleans, a chord progression that evokes the Flamenco Music of Spain, and my impressions of the sinuous lines of people dancing the Second Line in the streets of New Orleans at Mardi Gras led me to this synthesis as a tribute to a man who has contributed so much in his lifelong efforts for the guitar, its history and lore on the occasion of his birthday! Happy Birthday, Matanya!
Carlos Barrientos was born on June 25, 1954 in Tela, Honduras. He began his formal music studies at the National Music Conservatory in Guatemala City, Guatemala C.A. His training with Maestro Elias Barreiro, Director of Guitar Studies at Tulane University, was supplemented with Master Classes with Manuel Barrueco, Leo Brouwer, Juan Mercadal, Michael Newman, Tommy Tedesco and Carlos Barbosa-Lima. He studied composition under the tutelage of Dr. Jerry Sieg, University of New Orleans, and Dr. Roy Johnson, Florida State University. He consulted with Michael D. Martin, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Music, Albany State University, Albany, GA in the creation of a recordings library that reflects Western Art Music and American Jazz for the students at Albany State University. The New York Premiere of the First Movement of his Second Guitar Sonata was dedicated to and performed by Classical Guitarist Maestro Carlos Barbosa-Lima in 2003 at Carnegie Hall. At the request of U.S. Senator Bob Graham one of his compositions, Si Tu Te Vas (If You Go Away), was included on a recording to promote The Everglades Trail. In 2004, at the American Church in Paris, France the World Premiere of his Romance for Flute and Guitar was performed by the award-winning Serenade Duo, flutist Michelle LaPorte and guitarist Gerry Saulter. He has performed with such legendary musicians as Herbie Mann, Donald Byrd and Debbie Reynolds, led an on stage Renaissance Trio in a University of New Orleans production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, and played incidental music for their production of Bertold Brecht’s The Good Woman of Sichuan. He has performed Carulli’s Guitar Concerto in A, Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story and Marvin Hamlish’s A Chorus Line with the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra and Okaloosa-Walton Community College, Niceville, FL, and with the Southern Art Music Ensemble, a Jazz/Latin Fusion Sextet, including an Honors Convocation in Atlanta for Mr. Ted Turner. He has been a guest performer with the Albany State University Jazz Ensemble at The Fletcher Henderson Jr., Macon and Atlanta Jazz Festivals, and played the banjo in the Albany State University /Albany Symphony’s co-production of George Gershwin’s Opera Porgy and Bess.