All My Relations (Daptone


Released February 22, 2019

Jazziz Critics’ Picks 2019




Cochemea Gastelum is coming home to connect with his roots. After nearly 15 years of touring  the world with Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings, the saxophonist offers a deeply personal album of jazz and indigenous-influenced rhythms. All My Relations¸ out February 22 on Daptone Records, is 10 tracks of mesmerizing and spiritually ascendant instrumentation. 

“All My Relations is a way for me to explore my roots through music. Some of it is a memory that is imagined from a time and place I’ve never been (‘Sonora’) or a musical impression of ritual (‘Mitote’),” Cochemea says. “I felt compelled to add the way I feel when I go to ceremony, when I feel connected with my ancestors, to the musical narrative.” 

A California native with Yaqui and Mescalero Apache Indian ancestry, Cochemea grew up surrounded by music but without knowing much about his heritage. Both his parents were musicians, and gave him a heavy name meaning “they were all killed asleep.” Cochemea has spent much of his diverse musical career – as a soloist, musical director, composer and ensemble player – exploring and iterating on roots music, and All My Relations is a capstone meditation on his own ancestry. 

Originally conceived during Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings’ final year of touring, Cochemea and Daptone’s Gabe Roth cast a varied but familial set of New York musicians to bring All My Relations to life. A large portion of the album was created through improvisation and collective writing, where its 10 musicians created a melodic, percussive conversation. “It was a beautiful experience – people would start playing and we’d work up these arrangements on the spot, then record it.” 

The album begins with an invocation and plays like a story. Several songs have indigenous names and each track is an experiment in roots – from the Sanskrit prayer on which “Asatoma” is based, to the Mexican huapango rhythms in “Mescalero” and “Song of Happiness,” which is partly derived from a Navajo melody called Shii’ Naasha.’ “In a sense, this record is a prayer for unity, love and the recognition that we are all part of a web, and everything we do effects everything else,” Cochemea says. “These days there’s so many lines being drawn, I wanted to focus on what unites us.” 

Cochemea has a long history of uniting multiple genres with his powerful polyrhythmic sensibilities. His roots in jazz, Latin, funk and rock led to multiple tours with funk-jazz organist Robert Walter’s 20th Congress, and connected him with SJDK for their 2005 Naturally tour. Cochemea also played tenor sax with The Budos Band and Antibalas, and Baritone sax on the Amy Winehouse sessions, before becoming a full-time Dap-King in 2009.    In between marathon tours, Cochemea recorded a critically acclaimed solo album of soul, funk, and afro-Latin jazz, The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow, all while doing session work for the likes of Mark Ronson, Rick Rubin and Quincy Jones. He’s performed alongside Archie Shepp, Beck, David Byrne, Public Enemy and The Roots. Cochemea was also a featured soloist in the award-winning Broadway play Fela!, which led to historic performances in Lagos, Nigeria.

Track Listing:

1. Maso Ye’eme 02:25

2. All My Relations 03:32

3. Mitote 03:33

4. Al-Mu’tasim 04:37

5. Seyewailo 05:00

6. Asatoma 04:30

7. Sonora 01:34

8. Los Muertos 01:48

9. Mescalero 02:08

10. Song of Happiness 05:55


Cochemea Gastelum: alto saxophone, electric saxophone, flute, bass clarinet

Elizabeth Pupo-Walker: congas, bongos, cajón

Brian Wolfe: bass drum

Reinaldo De Jesus: congas, kanjira

Sunny Jain: tabla, dhol

Neil Ochoa: congas

Giancarlo Luiggi: shekere

Fernando Velez: congas

Bosco Mann: bass, guembri

Victor Axelrod: calivnet, pianet, talking drum

Recorded Daptone House of Soul, Brooklyn, NY, by Gabriel Roth, Wayne Gordon and Simon Guzman

Mixed by Gabriel Roth, Simon Guzman and Cochemea Gastelum

Mastring Engineer: J.J. Golden

Photos: Jacob Blickenstaff

Layout by Ann Combs

Executive Producers: Sugarman & Roth


Cochemea Gastelum had the idea to record All My Relations while the saxophone player was on tour with soul singer Sharon Jones, who passed away in 2016. In between shows, the 46-year-old Gastelum and the rest of Jones’ backing band, the Dap-Kings, would hit up local record stores and host impromptu listening parties around a turntable at the back of the tour bus. At one point, someone put on the Afro-Cuban jazz player Sabu Martinez’ Afro Temple, a 1973 album that combines rich layers of Latin percussion with wailing sax lines. After hearing the record, Gastelum—who grew up in California, lives in Woodstock, and claims Yaqui and Mescalero Apache Indian roots—felt he could express his own feelings about his ancestral background via a similar template of saxophone set to waves of percussion. This bewitching combination has forged All My Relations into a jazz album that’s equal parts spiritual journey and irrepressible funk.

The album’s 10 songs mix improvised percussion with impressionistic melodies. Gastelum called together a group of 10 musicians to engage in collective writing sessions at Daptone’s House of Soul studio in Brooklyn, where they’d jam until they hit on a groove and felt a song start to take shape. The core of the ensemble features a percussion section built around a spellbinding array of congas, bongos, tablas, dhols, and shekeres; this rhythmic foundation is embellished by Gastelum’s consummate saxophone playing, plus bass courtesy of Bosco Mann and clavinet and pianet from Victor Axelrod. The opening song, “Maso Ye’eme,” encapsulates the blend: Sinewy, smoldering melody lines play off smartly morphing percussion that builds to a frantic climax. Elsewhere, “Mitote” is spearheaded by a tight, upbeat horn riff that brings to mind James Brown’s band the J.B.’s; “Seyewailo” coasts with a breezy, blissful swing; and the title track is a defiant march that includes the communal chant, “Ain’t gonna build no wall.”

All My Relations boasts a syncopated charm that stems from the freedom of groove inherent in jam sessions. But the album’s spiritual elevation comes from Gastelum’s songwriting process. After taking time to consider his relationship to his ancestral roots, he attempted to transform the images in his head into melodic phrasings. “Sonora,” which is named for the homeland of Gastelum’s ancestors, was prompted by imagining a place that he’d never visited but felt an intense longing for. The track takes on a beautifully lonesome quality, with wistful sax backed by stripped-down, metronomic percussion that captures a feeling of wandering strange lands. These themes of ancestry and spiritual connection add narrative cohesion to the album: “Sonora” is followed by the ghostly-sounding interlude “Los Muertos,” which gives way to the Mexican rhythms of “Mescalero,” a song written in homage to Gastelum’s Mescalero Apache grandmother in which Gastelum deftly switches out his sax for flute.

Phillip Mlynar (Pitchfork)