Not your run-of-the-mill new picks
Afro Latin Ensemble
Levántate o Despídete (Get Up and Dance)
(Aerie Records, 2015)
There is something so refreshing about a musical ensemble made up of music students. Embedded in the project is the knowledge that the music we all love so much is in the hands of talented, up-and-coming musicians who will ensure that the music lives on. This assurance comes under the baton of music professor and director, Paul de Castro, Ph.D., who also heads up the master’s program in Afro Latin Music at California State University, Los Angeles. All of the students featured in this release have been in this program. Master percussionist Calixto Oviedo and master trumpeter Josiel Pérez might have participated in the recording, but the hard lifting is done by the students who excel in all aspects of musicality from delivering stirring vocals to driving, instrumental solos. Clearly, the students know their stuff as they masterfully deliver such classics as the Peruvian Ódiame with its clever arrangement; Dónde estabas tú, by Ernesto Duarte; Catalino Curet Alonso’s Ella está en otra rumba; and the standard, Moliendo café. They show their versatility with the cha-cha-cha Cobarde and the contemporary Cuban tune Dime tú que lo sabes. ¡Qué vivan los estudiantes!
Nils Fisher & Timbazo
Rumberos a Montón
(Timbazo Productions, 2015)
When a group is called “Timbazo” something tells you it is to be reckoned with. And as led by Nils Fisher, it does not disappoint. You blast off with the title track Rumberos a montón and don’t land until some 11 songs later with Algo así. Wait a minute! There are some extra stops added with a bonus track and 3 radio edits at the end. This is a heavyweight package with timba, rumba and salsa dura. Don’t expect to do a lot of relaxing. Born in Germany, Fisher fell in love with Latin music when his sister brought home a recording by Paquito D’Rivera with Daniel Ponce on congas. That changed his life, and he went on to study with master Latin percussionists in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Brazil. Fisher is now considered a master percussionist—and rightly so. This release features top talent that includes such familiar names as Changuito, Alexander Abreu, Carlos del Puerto, Calixto Oviedo, Lucrecia and others. Standout tunes also include Timbazo llegó, Flores para tu altar, and the son Sabor a bombón. Included as added treats is an incredible version of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On? and a get-your-feet-to-the-dance floor rendition of the Mexico’s José Alfredo Jiménez’s ever-popular La media vuelta. Who would have thunk? It totally works!
Negroni Piano +9
(Negronis 3, Inc., 2015)
When a recording like this gets dropped off in your mailbox, the best thing to do is not resist temptation, but get to the nearest CD player immediately and listen. And it’s not only because the release is from the multi-talented, Puerto Rican, pianist José Negroni, but because he has invited nine other talented musicians to work with him (hence the title “+9”). His guests include: Leo Quintero, guitar; Dr. Ed Calle, soprano sax; César Hernández, tenor voice; Rafa Valencia, fretless electric bass; Nomar Negroni (José’s son), snare drum; Humberto Ramírez, flugelhorn; Charlie Sepúlveda, trumpet; William Cepeda, trombone; and a capella Grupo Nota, vocals. A quick perusal of the playlist hints at the delights to come. There’s Juan Tizol’s (of Duke Ellington fame) Caravan, Astor Piazolla’s Oblivion, Paul Desmond’s Take Five, and even Carlos Gardel’s El día que me quieres (another tango nod). And there are compositions by some of the guest artists too. When you finally get down to the listening, you are definitely not disappointed. The tunes are moving, inspiring, gut wrenching and, yes, satisfying.
Just for the fun of it . . .
Pacific Mambo Orchestra
Pacific Mambo Dance (single)
(Pacific Mambo Records, 2015)
While we wait for Pacific Mambo Orchestra’s next release, we can have a lot of fun with its new single Pacific Mambo Dance. Arranged with that classic, rip roaring, mambo feel, the group has created a singular dance step (or series of steps) to go with the tune. And they invite you to learn the steps, film yourself doing them, and post/share them on their Facebook page or YouTube channel. Check out the video and dance!