On the cover of Good Vibrations, Ray Mantilla is dressed in black, as if in mourning. It seems appropriate. Two of the nine songs are tributes to the late Tito Puente, and in the liner notes, he dedicates "baritone con Bata to "honor all our heroes of percussion who are here now and who have passed on. Good Vibrations takes a jab at the supernatural, not asking questions about life, death, the pursuit of happiness and what have you, but answering them, loudly, aggressively and with congas.
Backed by Enrique Fernandez (baritone saxophone and flute), Edy Martinez (piano), Mike Freeman (vibes), Cucho Martinez (bass), Bill Elder (drums) and special guest Steve Berrios (percussion), Mantilla sculpts a record that is simultaneously festive and solemn. It's a melodic paradox that's ubiquitous in jazz, but Mantilla has paved new ground here.
Despite its spiritual underpinnings, Good Vibrations comes across as a celebratory album that's elegiac in neither concept nor arrangement. Mantilla leads the congas to contour Martinez's dexterous dominion of the keys, creating a frothy blend of rhythmic complexity that comes across like a delicately synchronized seduction. "Maria Cervantes is what lovesickness should sound like, in all its tragic glory. There may be a time to mourn, but there's also a time to danceand that's biblical. Good Vibrations tolerates no dissenting arguments.
Track Listing: Flying Home; Midnight Sun; Maria Cervantes; For Keeps; Ya No Me Quieres; Blues for Queen D; Camino Al Cielo Too; Namesake; Bari con Bata.
Personnel: Ray Mantilla: congas; Edy Martinez: piano; Mike Freeman: vibes; Cucho Martinez: bass; Bill
Elder: drums; Enrique Fernández: reeds; Steve Berrios: percussion.