Latinos know that there is no such thing as generic Latin music, although you can find common rhythmic patterns, melodic motifs, instrumentation and harmonies spread across the Caribbean, Mexico, central and South America . So if you are looking for "typical" Latin stuff, you will not find it here. Although to a nonexpert ear, there is something distinctly Boricua (Puerto Rican) about Mambo Blue, even if it was conceived in Austin, Texas. The music scene there is probably about as diverse and eclectic as one will find, and that kind of eclecticism runs throughout this swinging package by Ángel Román, himself with roots in Puerto Rico. Still, if you listen to "Dreaming in Bomba," you may well find yourself thinking it sounds more like dreaming in salsa than in the bomba, whose distinctive drumming marks out its origins in West African communities of the enslaved who worked the island's coastal sugar plantations.
So be not disappointed if you find yourself thinking the mambo is a Cuban rhythm, because it is. Román's promotional release says, quite correctly, this is a program of distinctly Latin jazz that ranges widely over the region, and makes a point of trespassing, because it does.
Austin is home to some absolutely first-rate musicians, as well as attracting them from all over South Texas. "Festive Interplay" features some impressively tight ensemble work and trumpet and saxophone solos that will part your hair. "Not So Sure" has a story behind the title, but it is very difficult not to get so entranced by the section work as to not care one way or the other. And then of course, nothing is Latin if it doesn't feature absolutely killer percussion. "Dreaming in Bomba" is no exception, and if it ends up driving a Fender Rhodes, well, it all works.
This is not polite Latin jazz, nor is it smooth or anything other than soulful in its own way. Listen to "Never Far" or "Who Knows Maybe Tomorrow." If you think you hear echoes of the band Chicago here, well, Román is from Milwaukee, not really so far away. Make some time in your schedule for this supremely musical recording. It really is a "good job" and then some.
Why Not; Collective Cha; Dreaming in Bomba; Festive Interplay; Never Far; Not Sure So Sure; 3 Sisters; The
Quest; Indi-Go-Go; Who Knows Maybe Tomorrow.