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Sabor de Gracia: Sabor Pa' Rato

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Sabor de Gracia

Sabor Pa' Rato

World Village

2011

For some non-native enthusiasts, Catalan rumba starts and finishes with Ojos de Brujo. But the word is that the Barcelona collective's album Corriente Vital: 10 Ans (Warner Music Spain, 2011) may be its last: after seven world tours and a string of luminous studio and live albums, the Ojos de Brujo ("eyes of the wizard") musicians are said to want a break, and the space to explore individual projects. If this proves to be true, then Catalan rumba fans are going to have to lodge their allegiances elsewhere.

Sabor de Gracia ("flavor of Gracia") would be a good place to start. The group takes its name from the Barcelona quarter of Gracia, home to a community of Catalan Gypsies. If any one place could be called the cradle of Catalan rumba, it would be Gracia. It was there that the Cuban and Puerto Rican styles which swept Spain in the 1950s took on a hefty infusion of flamenco, and the "ventilador"—the style's signature, fan-like motion of striking the guitar strings—was developed.

Gracia is as colorful as colorful gets, in a good way, and the vibe is perfectly reflected in Sabor de Gracia's music, which is passionate, vibrant, rough round the edges and ravenously multi-cultural in content. So comprehensively did Ojos de Brujo command the international Catalan rumba lists in the 2000s, however, that Sabor de Gracia has remained largely unknown outside Spain—although it formed in 1995 and has been recording since 1996.

In true Catalan rumba style, Sabor Pa' Rato ("flavor of the times") features Sabor de Gracia's core lineup augmented by a host of friends. Singer Marina Canailla (aka Marina Abad), turntablist Panko and tabla player Xavi Turull—all from Ojos De Brujo—guest on two tracks; members of Fania All Stars, Barberia del Sur, Puerto Rico, Los Manolos and Gertrudis are heard on others. It's a bittersweet experience hearing Canailla in this context, because her performances with Ojos De Brujo were so commanding that her presence indelibly colored everything she touched, in the studio or on stage. She leaps out at the listener again here, among the riotous abandon of the opening title track. We can only hope that she is going to be able to find a working balance between motherhood and performance, and hit the road again with her own project soon.

Canailla wasn't the only good thing Ojos de Brujo had going for it, of course. The grandeur of its arrangements also made it stand out from the crowd. Sabor de Gracia's arrangements are less ambitious than Ojos de Brujo's, but they too display plenty of imagination. The band's use of strings—heard on five tracks—is particularly effective, bridging that small gap between Gypsy flamenco and Moorish trance music. Through the 15 tracks, the group stays mostly clear of the jip jop flamenkillo which Ojos de Brujo made their own, staying more or less strictly roots and moving through Catalan rumba, Cuban rumba, funk rumba and flamenco rumba. "Sinelas Capoeira," though, stretches the envelope with an infusion of Brazilian rhythms and percussion instruments, and "Sientelo" ("feel it") stretches it a little more with a touch of reggaeton.

"Mi Testimonio" is bandleader "Sicus" Carbonell's account of how he came back from the brink of hard drug and alcohol-induced death, and found god. His music, happily, has survived this transition, although one line in the lyric to the closing "La Culpa No Es Del Rock & Roll" ("don't blame rock and roll"), may cause momentary concern: it appears to include "pederasty" along with race hatred and war as one the great evils of the modern world. In translation, however, "pederasty" here means "paedophilia"—and no-one will argue with that.

Time to pull up to the bumper, and get with the program.

Tracks: Sabor Pa' Rato; Hambre Basta Ya; Tau Tau; Nuestra Cultura; Sinelas Capoeira; Hasta Que Me Quemen Los Bares; La Tienes Que Pagar; Sientelo; Gracias Corazon; Por Ti Paroria El Tiempo; Fatiguitas; Despierta; Tu Duende; Mi Testimonio; La Culpa No Es Del Rock & Roll.

Personnel: "Sicus" Carbonell: vocals, guitar, palmas; Yumitus Hernandez: piano, Rhodes electric piano, palmas, bongos, backing vocals; Lorenzo "El Diablo" Barriendos: electric bass; Francisco "Rambo" Batista: drums, percussion, palmas; David "Barretina" Torras: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, tres, palmas; Miguel "Muchacho" Serviole: guitar, programming; Rafael "Jimmy" Jenks: tenor saxophone; Abel "El Gitano" Herrera: trumpet; Selo Ferrer: backing vocals; Dario Gracia: trombone (1, 7, 8, 13, 15); Edu Acedo: violin (9, 12); Ernesto Briceno: violin (8, 11); Johnny Salazar: piano (2); Marina Canailla: vocal (1); Panko: turntables (1); Pepe Terricabras: drums (12, 14); Quino "Harry" Bejar: Brazilian percussion (5, 9, 12); Tete: flute (10, 11); Vicenc Soler: congas (2); Vincenc Solsona: electric guitar (3, 6, 15); Virus String Quartet: string section (4); Xavi Turull: tablas (4); Chonchi Heredia: vocals (1, 11); Enrique "Negri" Heredia: vocals (1, 6); Jerry Medina: vocals (7); Jose El Frances: vocals (9); Josep "Kitflus" Mas: piano (2); Los Manolos: vocals (10); Parrita: vocals (14); Sisters Bautista: vocals (8); Wagner Pa: vocals (1, 5).

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