When a Latin jazz artist shapes their approach, they can let rhythms drive the sound, or they can incorporate the rhythms into a compositional focus.
Emphasizing the music's rhythmic aspect highlights dance styles and simplistic harmonic writing. Such musicians rearrange standards and complete their repertoire with commercial compositions. Musicians that integrate Latin rhythms write original pieces that explore vast harmonic territories and multiple song forms. They create stimulating improvisational platforms and give their musicians space to fully express themselves. Drummer Alex Garcia and his group Afromantra look into new frontiers on Espiritu Optimista with strong compositions, inspired performances, and an undeniable enthusiasm.
Garcia emphasizes Latin musical traditions on several tracks, never letting the music's rhythmic nature overwhelm his artistic voice. Pianist Desmar Guevara and bassist Waldo Chavez establish an assertive rhythmic pattern to open "The Uplifting Spirit of Our Soul until saxophonist Ole Mathisen screams his way into a joyous melody. The band provides unobtrusive support behind Guevara and then strong pushes in Mathisen's solo.
Guevara opens "Latin American Song with a powerful timba montuno, soon moving to Mathisen playing an insightful melody over a rumba. Guevara creates a powerful extended statement, transitioning into Chavez's intriguing solo. Latin elements remain crucial to the music, always intertwined into the harmonic and melodic composition. On many tracks, Garcia's use of Latin rhythms become secondary to his statement as a jazz musician.
Mathisen and pianist Pablo Vergara provide a sensitive melodic performance on "Luna and the Sun, until Garcia and Chavez insert a subdued rhythmic propulsion. Garcia plays a rumba palito pattern with brushes behind Vergara and Mathisen's solos, leaving ample room for interpretation.
Saxophonist Jorges Castro and Mathisen play intertwining melodic lines on "New Dawn, a spacious cha-cha-cha. Castro's flowing solo leads directly into a double time rumba, which serves as a backdrop for pianist Manuel Valera's rhythmically intricate improvisation. These songs preserve their Latin roots, yet they stand alone as ingenious compositions, deeply anchored in modern jazz.
The intricate composing and inspiring musical settings bring strong performances from the musicians. Angular melodies, shifting time signatures, and a stunning array of textures form the foundation on "For Emiliano Salvador. Valera pays tribute to pianist Salvador with an energetic statement while Garcia's unaccompanied solo builds into a strong composition. Mathisen improvises feverishly to open "Green Horizons, transitioning into a syncopated melody. Valera provides a Fender Rhodes solo and then creates a solid foundation for a virtuosic percussion trade. The group enthusiastically responds to Garcia's thoughtful compositions, creating powerful music.
Garcia emphasizes composition on Espiritu Optimista, inspiring stellar performances from all Afromantra members. Latin music traditions become balanced with rich structures, evolving themes, and changing textures. This complete assimilation creates an intersection between jazz composition, modern clarity, and Latin heritage. Afromantra's members sense the essential freedom and explorative spirit. Their completely exposed performances reveal a dedication to Garcia's concept. The exploration of new compositional territory and the group's passionate commitment results in a unified voice leading Latin Jazz into tomorrow.
Track Listing: The Uplifting Spirit of our Soul; Latin American Song; Luna and the Sun; For Emiliano Salvador; Because of You; New Dawn; Yemay
Personnel: Alex Garcia: drums and timbales; Ole Mathisen: tenor and soprano Saxophone; Pablo Vergara: piano and keyboards (1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11); Desmar Guevara: piano (1, 2, 5); Waldo Chavez: bass; Aryam V
Title: Espiritu Optimista
| Year Released: 2007
| Record Label: AfroMantra Records