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Dizzy Gillespie would have loved this. No Jazz to speak of, at least as we normally employ the term, but an abundance of captivating and colorful Latin rhythms from Puerto Rico, home of Grupo Afro Boricua and its director, William Cepeda. Grupo Afro, it says in the liner notes, is a leading exponent of Puerto Rico’s traditional musical forms, the bomba and plena, the former composed of rhythmic variations that grew out of the African slave experience in colonial Puerto Rico, the latter a style of popular music that emerged in towns along the coast at the turn of the century (20th, that is) and consists of spontaneously improvised lyrics with choral refrain. If you’re at all confused by any of this, it is spelled out clearly in the liner notes, which provide a musical synopsis (in English and Spanish) for each of the 14 songs. Also included are descriptions of each of the rhythm instruments: the cúa, bomba drum, maraca típica, güiro jibaro, pandereta and tumbander! o. Much of the music is vocal as well as rhythmic, and the vocals are also in Spanish. As would be expected, there is a strong African influence throughout, with drums predominating in an impassioned call–and–response format between soloist and chorus. There is only one horn, director Cepeda’s trombone, and it is seldom heard. This is music that must be as much fun to play as it is to hear. Devotees of world music, especially that of Africa and Latin America, should find much to savor and cherish in Bombazo.
Track listing: Afro Boricua; Yubá Medley; Seshuque y Balance; San Tomás; El Gallo Canta; El Conde de Loíza; Amalia (No Quiere Ir Ebozo); Melitón Tombé; Rulé son Da; Majestad Negra; El Doctor Güenaga; Lamento Borincano; Seis Corrido Medley; El Belén (52:01).
William Cepeda, music director, conch shell, trombone, piano, vocals; Antonio Martinez, principal vocalist; Nellie Lebron, lead vocals, bass guitar; Roberto Cepeda, vocals; Hector Matos, percussion, lead vocals; Hector Calderon, percussion, vocals; Luis Cepeda, Angel Mojica, percussion; Harry Diaz, vocals on
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.