DJP's primary composer and keyboard player Stephen Anderson has worked to get the DJP back into the studio after their 2016 Dominican Jazz Project (Summit Records) debut received so much critical and popular acclaim. The 2020 pandemic and attendant lockdowns delayed but did not cancel this follow-up, which the band recorded Desde Lejos"From Afar."
Primarily composed by Anderson in his COVID "compositional woodshed" (his term for lockdown) plus two ballads by singer-guitarist Carlos Luis, Desde Lejos remains true to the folkloric Dominican and swinging ensemble jazz aspects in this band's name, resulting in powerful music played so collaboratively and communicatively that you'd never guess it was recorded "from afar" (remotely) from North and South Carolina, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
The unaccompanied sax introduction to the leadoff "Fuera De La Oscuridad" opens a world of inventive and colorful music that emerges "Out of the Darkness" of silence. Anderson's first solo unleashes a true piano monster and bursts like a great white shark through the churning bass, drum and percussion rhythms. Just as saxophonist Sandy Gabriel starts cooking, drummer Guy Frometa and percussionist David Almengod drop the bottom completely out then sweep it back in, creating powerful waves of irresistible Latin rhythm, and "Fuera De La Oscuridad" ends like a fireworks finale in an explosion of joyful, multicolored sound.
"Siempre Adelante" ("Ever Moving Forward") features trumpeter Mayquel Gonzalez and was written by late DJP bassist Jeffry Eckles, who suddenly passed during preparations for this recording. It opens as the type of melody that seems to constantly move ahead, as if in search of itself, on a Latin shuffle. But this shuffle quickly rips into torrid Latin funk, with González and Gabriel igniting trumpet and sax solos that leap into each new bright note. It all crests into a piano/drum/percussion section where all three musicians share the melody between them. ("I composed the tune 'Sin Palabras' ['No Words'] in honor of Jeffry out of pure emotion in the days following the news of his death," Anderson recalls.)
"Pero Aún No Es El Fin" ("But the End is Not Yet") captures the most free-wheeling eight minutes of musical "wow" on this set. Soloists Anderson, Gonzalez, and Gabriel dust the top with staccato flurries of sparkling notes that twist and turn back on themselves and yet simultaneously reach farther and farther out, while drummer Frómeta often sounds like Stewart Copeland or even Bill Bruford, seeming to play all around the beat but while keeping the music in order and moving forward too.
"Pero Aún No Es El Fin" rings out a message of hope and promise particularly fit to fight against the discouraging thoughts of pandemics and lockdowns.
Fuera de la Oscuridad; Ritmos de Baní; Sin Palabra; Como un Rayo Ciego; Si Tu Supieras; Pero Aún no es el Fin;.
Siempre Adelante; Una Más; Un Cambio de Ritmo.