Alejandro Florez's Tibagui exists to explore and expand upon the Andean music of the guitarist's native Colombia. Neither cumbia nor chichi, Florez's quartet use traditional folk melodies as starting points for very modern, sophisticated and engaging improvisations.
The musical tradition Tibagui springs from is primarily string-based, typically a trio including the Latin bandola and tiple, as well as guitar. Here, Florez has expanded the instrumentation to include wind instruments and percussion, each of which has long had its own place in Andean music and is, therefore, not at all out of context here.
The opening "Algo Mas Melodico" ("Something More Melodic") sets the tone right away, its spritely melody quickly giving way to spirited improvisation, returning to the theme and leading to delicate interplay between Florez's and soprano saxophonist Sam Sadigursky.
Sadigursky's rangein tone and emotion, as well as the variety of instruments he contributes (clarinet, sax and flute)give the music great diversity. Florez has quite a palette at his disposal and uses it well.
Florez has called Malandanza "as playful as it is serious." There are passages in the music where that lighter nature is evident, but the truest expression of the album's humor can be found in some of the song titles. The album title itself translates to "Mishaps," which can only be self-deprecating as there are none evident. It's hard not to laugh at titles including, "El Gran Guayabo de los Hogares Colombianos" (The Great Hangover of Colombian Households), which surely refers to the morning-after effect of the local drink aguardiente, an Andean sugarcane liquor whose alcohol content can reach 60%. Perhaps "Cucarachas Tricolor" ("Tricolor Cockroaches") is what one sees after imbibing too much aguardiente.
Malandanza is an extraordinarily well-engineered record. Each instrument has a clear position in the soundstage and all are captured pristinely. Surprising sonic moments abound, many generated by percussionist Tupac Mantilla. Crisp rings of a triangle or bell, hands slapping a drum head and other accents and flourishes are captured wonderfully.
With Malandanza, Florez and Tibagui use a rich musical tradition to create a completely modern and original sound.
Algo Mas Melodico; Glass Dust; El Gran Guayabo De Los Hogares Colombianos; Cucaracha Tricolor; Malandanza; Las Tres Verdades; Monstruos.
Sam Sadigursky: clarinet, soprano saxophone, alto flute; Alejandro Florez: guitar, tiple, bandola; Jorge Roeder: double bass; Tupac Mantilla: percussion.