Although jazz aficionados have become accustomed to the regular expansion of the music's vocabulary coming from the Caribbean and South America, virtually nothing in the history of the increasingly diverse genre known as "Latin jazz" has prepared audiences for the uniquely innovative sound of Edmar Castaneda. A native of Colombia, Castaneda plays "el arpa llanera," the folk harp commonly heard in his country's indigenous music, but there is nothing common about his virtuosic command or the music he performs. Possessing an amazing multi-tiered technique broadly encompassing melodic, harmonic and rhythmic elements, the harpist is a virtual one-man orchestra; within the context of the unusual instrumentation of his working trio with trombonist Marshall Gilkes and drummer David Silliman, his work is nothing short of magnificent, delivering on the impressive promise of his debut Cuarto de Colores.
From the opening notes of Casteneda's bluesy skronking introduction to his "Sabroson"more reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix than anything in the jazz lexiconthe harpist's imposing technique is on full display, alternating dark percussive chords with airy cascading arpeggios, flowing into a syncopated Afro-Cuban dance on top of which Gilkes states the warmhearted melody and John Scofield delivers a soulful Wes Montgomery-inspired solo. The exciting title track showcases the leader's aptitude for playing melody and bass lines simultaneously, on a tour de force that melds the Eastern-influenced sound of Alice Coltrane with that of flamenco music. The unaccompanied "Jesus of Nazareth" is a moving contemplation, marking Castaneda's spiritual devotion also felt deeply on his "Canto," on which his spouse Andrea Tierra delivers a stirring vocal. Vibraphonist Joe Locke augments the group on the high-flying "Colibri" (also featuring Samuel Torres' cajon) and the optimistic ode "Song of Hope." Elsewhere the trio plays typically swinging jazz, but on the whole the music here is anything but typical.
Sabroson; Entre Cuerdas; Jesus de Nazareth; Colibri; Song of Hope; Colombian Dixie; Canto; Looking Forward; Afro Seis.
Edmar Castaneda: Colombian harp, Leader; Marshall Gilkes: trombone;
David Silliman: drums,percussion; John Scofield: guitar; Joe Locke:
vibraphone; Andrea Tierra: voice; Samuel Torres: cajon.