Henry Cole’s “Roots Before Branches” CD Review


“Root Before Branches” is the debut album for Puerto Rican drummer Henry Cole with his “The Afro-Beat Collective” group.

Henry Cole is a talented percussionist that has participated with many different groups of many different music genres. He brings to “Roots Before Branches” the experience of having participated in Grammy nominated or Grammy winning projects. This includes working with Latin Jazz artists like Miguel Zenon (“Awake”, “Esta Plena”, “Alma Adentro”), David Sanchez (“Cultural Survival”), and the all-star quartet “90 Miles” with Sanchez, Stefon Harris, and Christian Scott.

For “Roots Before Branches”, Henry Cole assembled a talented group of musicians and some stellar old friends. Invited guests include Puerto Rican sax greats Miguel Zenon and David Sanchez. Other guests included Adam Rogers (electric guitar) and John Ellis (Tenor sax).

The album, which was finally released in March 2012, was recorded and mixed at studios in Puerto Rico and New York City. It was produced by Henry Cole.

Here’s a video on Henry Cole explaining his approach on the drums.

What I Liked About “Roots Before Branches”

Good song originality: the compositions in “Roots Before Branches” reflect the experiences Henry Cole has gained as a musician. These go from the funk, to rock, to hip hop, to poetry, and to progressive jazz.

Great musicianship: everyone in the album executes exceptionally well. Henry Cole demonstrates his skill at the drums in various songs. The solos by guests Miguel Zenon, David Sanchez, Adam Rogers, and John Ellis are masterful.

Songs like the fusion “Comienzo”, the funky “To Believe without Seeing”, the poetic declamations in “Trabajala” and “Uncoered Fears”, and the more progressive “Una Para Isabel” make my favorite songs of the album.

Suggestions to Henry Cole About “Roots Before Branches”

Henry Cole playing Latin Jazz drums
Henry Cole performing live “Root Before Branches”

Too much psychedelic funkiness for my taste. I did like the funky-psychedelic tune “To Believe without Seeing”. However, I did not care as much for “No Eres Tu, Soy Yo” and “Solo Dos Veces”.

I appreciate the originality of the poetic declamation of “Año 2010”. Yet, although the lyrics sound nice, they don’t make much sense to me.

My Recommendation of “Roots Before Branches”

“Root Before Branches” is a nice piece of musical work put together by Henry Cole in his debut album. I have mixed feelings about the album, as I like about half of it and don’t care much for the other half.

There is a lot of creative, original music in this album. I believe that as Henry performs this music live, he’ll get to see the reaction of the audiences to the different musical styles he brings to the table.

You can experience the music of “Root Before Branches” in Henry Cole’s presentation in NPR’s program “Listen Now” which you can see HERE. You can also read more on Henry Cole and detail of “Root Before Branches” at his website HERE.

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