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Afromantra: Alignment

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This New York City-based combo is a self-proclaimed new entry in the Latin jazz marketplace in the Big Apple, "mixing post bop with Afro-Cuban rhythms." After hearing this group's efforts, I think that it would be more at home at The Knitting Factory playing avant-garde jazz than at a Latin/world showcase like S.O.B.'s. Led by Chilean-Cuban drummer Alex Garcia, Afromantra shows that it can play competent Latin jazz but demonstrates a tendency to take it outside on more than a few occasions.

Garcia contributed half of the ten tracks on Alignment. On the appropriately named "Take Out," Schlomi Cohen begins with a frenetic tenor sax solo that tries to channel late period Coltrane, while Guy David redeems things with a punchy trumpet solo. The two then meet in full cry on this eight minute excursion. "Eastern Spice" is a similar experience with outside statements from both David and Cohen. Fain & Webster's "Secret Love" starts off as a bolero but quickly gets sidetracked by piano and percussion interludes before returning to a montuno. "Transparencies" is performed as a samba on the melody line and could pass as bossa on a blindfold test with Lori Cotler's vocalese/scatting, but the tempo shifts to a Latin pulse for the piano/percussion bulk of the track.

There are typically many tempo changes during the course of this album, and Garcia may be confusing the technique as ground-breaking stuff that separates them from the pack. I would much rather hear at least a few numbers played through at a fixed pace. These guys have shown that they can play bebop and salsa – but not necessarily at the same time.

Title: Alignment | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Mambo Maniacs

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