With much of his work dealing in “ancestral memory,” as he puts it, The Dap Kings’ electro-sax player Cochemea invites the listener into a journey surrounding his ancestral lineage in the Mimbres Valley, New Mexico. “Mimbreños” employs its various musical charms to “represent some of the tensions between the history that we are told, through the lens of colonization and the history that the land remembers,” says Cochemea.
“I wanted to bring this branch of my lineage into the narrative of this particular album, which deals mainly with my Yaqui/Yoeme side,” he tells American Songwriter. “I wanted these different branches of the tree to dialogue with each other.”
“Mimbreños” samples a forthcoming record, titled Vol. II: Baca Sewa, out everywhere July 16 via Daptone Records. It follows the release of his 2019 studio album, All My Relations. “The music is a representation of a process of healing through connection, relations, memory, and imagination,” he says. “The lyrical melodies rest mostly on the drums, which signifies an ancient history, communication with ancestors, but also a lived present.
“Songwriting, for me, is something like making a film in aural form,” he adds. “I love the process of turning images, thoughts, and feelings into sound and arranging them in a way that tells a story.”
Originally from San Diego, Cochemea—most known as a musician as part of Sharen Jones & the Dap-Kings, as well as work with Jon Batiste, The Roots, and Quincy Jones, among others—was first inspired by his mother’s diverse record collection. As both his parents played guitar, he learned an early appreciation for jazz music and was exposed to the work of Charlie Parker and Lester Young, leading him to eventually pick up the saxophone.
Over the course of his 25-year career, his résumé also includes such names as Mark Ronson, Rick Rubin, Beck, David Byrne, Kevin Morby, Archie Shepp, Antibalas, Budos Band and Robert Walter’s 20th Congress. Given his lengthy list of accomplishments, he offers up a bit of wise songwriting advice. “Listen deeply to everything around you. Study carefully the forms and practices of artists that move you, and trust yourself. If it feels right, it probably is.”
It is within his solo work, though, that Cochemea’s own excellence has come into sharper focus. Alongside the forthcoming Vol. II: Baca Sewa, he eyes other creative pursuits which may find their way into his songwriting. “I’ve started working a lot more with image, both photography and video, which has been really exciting,” he teases. “I’m working on some pieces that will incorporate some of that into the musical process.”
Listen to “Mimbreños” below.