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Drummer/percussionist/bandleader Rob Garcia's Heart's Fire, with his group Sangha, may initially be reminiscent of the music of Black Jazz Records, a 1970s-era label that focused on original soul-jazz, but further listens reveal something more.
The word "Sangha" is a Buddhist term that comes from the Three Treasures roughly translating to "the community of Truth seekers." The group is well represented by, alongside Garcia, flutist Michael Gentile, saxophonist Adam Kolker, guitarist Kenny Wessel, pianist Daniel Kelly and Dave Ambrosio on bass, in addition to vocalist Yoon Sun Choi, a strong-voiced singer who appears on almost every track. The lyrics are not particularly meaningful, but they offer a good reason to hear Choi, a definite asset to the group.
Garcia's original lines are delivered nicely by the front line in a bracing manner (another reference to Black Jazz). The only tune that is clearly intended to be a breakout for the group is "It's Ruby" which, after a very brief vocal intro by Choi, goes into full-tilt Latin jazz mode for a nine minute excursion. This is exciting music and Garcia's band seems most comfortable showing their prowess.
Track Listing: Beginnings; Is It Me; It's Ruby; Heart's Fire; Coming Home; Sangha; Be A Lover; Fresh; Thank You.
Personnel: Rob Garcia: drums, percussion; Michael Gentile: flute; Adam Kolker: tenor and soprano sax; Yoon Sun Choi: vocals; Kenny Wessel: guitar; Daniel Kelly: piano; Dave Ambrosio: bass.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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