Have congas, will travel - that pretty much defines funky and frenetic world of Gumbi Ortiz Pronounced Goombi, who brings his rich Puerto Rican/Cuban heritage and a lifetime of eclectic musical influences and experiences - from jazz/fusion, pop and funk to retro-soul, samba and even a hint of Irish jig—to his highly anticipated solo debut Miami. Renowned throughout the world for his nonstop tours over the past 19 years with fusion guitar legend Al Di Meola, the charismatic conguero gathered a powerful ensemble of jazz greats (most longtime friends, naturally) in fashioning a multi-cultural tribute to the New York native’s adopted home state of Florida, where he has lived since 1980.
At the helm of this All Star CD is Executive Producer Kermit Weeks, producer Dan O’Brien, and Roger Nichols, (7 time Grammy Award winning engineer, best known for his 30 years with Steely Dan) senior engineer. 10 of Miami’s 13 tracks (there’s also a cover of a well known Janet Jackson tune) were composed by the prolific Ortiz in a single week. Several of these vignettes were later co-written or embellished by artists appearing on the CD and draw from a wealth of styles and rhythms far beyond those of his best known associations (which include Chick Corea, Miles Davis, Nat Adderly, Gato Barbieri, Jeff Berlin and famed bandeon player Dino Soluci).
The heavy emphasis on Latin, Cuban and Caribbean music comes from growing up in a big Latino family in the South Bronx. There are also a few irresistibly seductive nods to what Ortiz calls the “Herbie Hancock funk thing,” some tasty samba excursions, a touch of retro-soul (helped along by the shimmering Fender Rhodes magic of Jeff Lorber), and even a taste of gospel. Whether he’s going wild and banging his congas on free form jazz jams, showing his mastery of more subtle rhythmic nuances, or simply supporting the rhythm section behind more straightforward melodies, Ortiz proves to be an incredible lead performer in his own right.