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John Santos Sextet: Filosofía Caribeña Vol. 1

James Nadal By

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John Santos is a sophisticated percussionist with impeccable credentials, so it is no surprise that Filosofía Caribeña, Vol. 1 is a brilliant foray into the broader scope of Caribbean music. As the title infers, there is an inherent rhythmic philosophy ingrained in this music which is as rich and vibrant as the culture which it represents.

The John Santos Sextet teams Santos up, once again, with flautist John Calloway, and saxophonist Melecio Magdaluyo. Augmented with a premier rhythm section, they succeed in encompassing the numerous aspects that combine Latin music with jazz, and that is just the beginning. As would be expected, the sound is laden with outstanding percussion, which is perfectly recorded at the proper layer in the mix so it is not overbearing or intrusive. Strategically placed in the center of the lineup, the track "Resistance," with its steady drumming buildup, is a prime example of how Santos can compose melodically around a percussion ensemble.

With flute the featured melodic instrument, coupled with Marco Diaz's piano montuno, the sextet offers an authentic touch of a polished Cuban dance band, where saxophone adds the appropriate flavors. The weaving in and out of styles, tempos, and moods is what distinguishes the song selections, and makes for an excellent repertoire.

There is a timely intermissions of two vocal tracks. "No Soy Combatiente (I Am Not A Warrior), featuring Pável Urkiza on vocals and guitar, is reminiscent of popular Cuban And Puerto Rican protest songs, called Nueva Trova, while "Refraneando," with its repetitive lyric, is based on the Afro-Rican bomba rhythm.

The record ends symbolically with "Carnaval SF," Santos' take on a New Orleans second line, which brings in the festive beats of carnival drums to take the disc out on a positive vibration.

Filosofía Caribeña, Vol. 1 is yet another evolution of Santos' continuing experimental efforts to express and delve deeper into unexpected possibilities, and the result is magnificent.

Track Listing: He Was One of Us; La Rumba Me Lleva; El Esqueleto Rumbero; No Soy Combatiente; Pop's Brim; Resistencia; The Sense of Now; Refraneando; Siete Cuevas; Ponme A Gozar; Carnaval SF.

Personnel: John Santos: chekere, tumbadoras, miscellaneous percussion; Dr. John Calloway: flute, piano (6, 10); Melecio Magdaluyo: tenor sax (1, 8, 9); flute (2) soprano sax (3, 4, 5, 7,); baritone sax 6, 10, 11); Saul Sierra: bass; Marco Diaz: piano, trumpet (6, 11); David Flores: drum set, katá (2); Javier Navarrette: miscellaneous percussion (1) cachimbo, clave (2) batas, chekere (6), quinto (11); Joey DeLeon: tumbadoras, segundo (2), tumbadoras, quinto, bata (6), rebajador (11); Pavel Urkiza: lead voice, coro, guitar (4); Claudia Gomez: lead vocals, coro (4); Willie Ludwig: coro (8); Beatriz Muñiz: coro (8); Steve Turre: trombones (11).

Title: Filosofía Caribeña Vol. 1 | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Machete Records

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