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Aguanko: Invisible

Chris M. Slawecki By

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In 2012, conguero and composer Alberto Nacif, a Mexican native transplanted in Michigan, brought together some of the area's most skilled Afro-Cuban and Latin musicians to form Aguankó. Their small ensemble with a large Latin jazz sound herewith follows up their self-produced 2013 debut Elemental with a sparkling new set entirely written by Nacif, featuring Aguankó percussionist Jose "Pepe" Espinosa serving for the first time as their producer.

"The idea for the title and the concept for this new Aguankó recording is the invisibility of forces that guide us, move us, inspire us," Nacif reveals in his liner notes. "Love, friendship, respect, compassion, admiration, joy, longing..."

There is something undefinably and indescribably joyous about Nacif's music, the band's performance, and Espinosa's production, on Invisible. A sense of collective joy—the joy of creation, the joy of camaraderie and collaboration, and the simple joy of music—bubbles up from the chirping percussion and sunny brass of the opening "Sur La Seine" (mambo) like a refreshing mountain stream. The trombone solo by Christopher Smith flies so fleetly that you ears nearly hear it as a trumpet, but there's no mistaking the sound of Russell Miller's saxophone, which teams with the crackling piano solo to turn up the rhythmic flame. A subsequent 6/8 mambo "Luna Roja for Armando Peraza" is an absolute frenzy of brass, piano, and percussion from start to finish; I genuinely don't understand how someone could remain unmoved by this music.

On "Señor Belgrave," Nacif features two of Detroit's finest contemporary musicians, bassist Robert Hurst and trumpeter Marcus Belgrave. "Marcus Belgrave is a national treasure, and I am grateful for his gentle advice and longtime friendship. He is the dean of the Detroit school of good taste and style, and has been the master teacher to so many of us," the composer explains. "It is no surprise that he picked longtime collaborator and bassist Robert Hurst to record with us, and his bass intro to 'Señor Belgrave' is a one-take wonder, and a master class in itself."

The closing guaguankó "Un Futuro Brillante" ("A Bright Future") certainly sounds like it. Trumpeter Anthony Stanco combines the bright and blazing best of Latin jazz trumpet legends Dizzy Gillespie and Arturo Sandoval, while Nacif honors the sound and spirit of Afro-Cuban piano firebrand Arturo O'Farrill. Just like "Luna Roja," this absolute hurricane of melody and rhythm is such inspired, and inspiring, music.

Alberto Nacif is also a (General Practitioner) medical doctor, and the music he makes with Aguankó sounds healing, soulful, and life-affirming. Nominated for Ourstanding World Music release by the 2015 Detroit Music Awards, Invisible has thankfully raised Aguankó's visibility throughout the jazz community.

Track Listing

Sur la Seine; Fashionably Late; Invisible; Babuka; Chico's Dream; Luna Roja (for Armando Peraza); Senor Belgrave; Madiba; Un Futuro Brillante.

Personnel

Alberto Nacif: congas; Jose "Pepe" Espinosa: timbales, guiro, bongos, batas; Carlos Mena: bass; Wesley Reynoso: piano; Russell Miller: saxophone, flute; Christopher Smith: trombone; Anthony Stanco: trumpet; Ric Roe: piano; Marcus Belgrave: trumpet; Robert Hurst: bass; Alberto Alberto Pino: vocals.

Album information

Title: Invisible | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Self Produced

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