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Fidel Morales: Omío

James Nadal By

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There is a saying, that Cuba and Puerto Rico are two wings from the same dove. This could not be more evident than in the musical collaborations and cultural exchanges which have historically united both islands, and their people. Fidel Morales is a native Cuban who since 2006 has secured the drum chair in the Jazz and Afro-Caribbean Music Program at the Music Conservatory of Puerto Rico, a prestigious position, in an island replete with drummers and percussionists.

Omío is a production encompassing a myriad of Morales's influences stemming from his lifelong foray into jazz, all thoughtfully intertwined with his innate Cuban roots. Enlisting premier musicians in Puerto Rico, many of which are also Cuban, this is an enthralling panoramic experience of the Caribbean in rhythmic and auditory explorations.

Opening with the accelerated fusion streaked "No Mas," pianist Yan Carlos Artime blazes an arc for guitarist Isaac Lausell to expand upon. Anchored by consummate bassist Ramón Vázquez, this song unites what might be considered a local super group, for all the combined talent. One of many originals, "My Gift," is a laid back modal number incorporating light Afro-Latin rhythms as a foundation, and the thoughtful implementation of horns for a defining jazz consequence. The multifaceted arrangement and character of "Albita," in honor of Morales's grandmother, introduces the batá drums interplaying with the electric guitar phrasing of Raúl Romero, revealing a progressive Latin flavor. Rafael Hernández, is one of Puerto Rico's foremost composers, and his vintage sentimental ballad "Ausencia," is transformed into a jazz trio format, featuring bassist extraordinaire Eddie Gomez. The lyrics are interpreted by vocalist Ana María Perera, who conveys the songs sense of loss and melancholia with emotional elegance.

In the Santeria religion, the deity Yemaya is greeted by an "Omío," in the wemilere celebration. Depicted by the obligatory batá drums, and the chanting of the apkwon (high priest), the energy is blended into a free jazz concept revolving around the profound saxophone contribution of Richard Pons, and Morales's cosmic drumming. This composition allows the intended spiritual consciousness to come into play, for a transcendent message as the standard for the record. Following along the Afro-Cuban currents, "Lo Que Viene..." pulsates on the energetic bass pattern of Gabriel Rodríguez, heightened by soaring trumpet work from Daniel Ramírez; as the propelling percussion interacts within songo, timba and abakuá beats.

Conga master Giovanni Hidalgo is the beneficiary of "Blue Sea" an intricate arrangement employing several tempo variations and rhythmic nuances, with Morales performing on the batá, an instrument he both respects and honors. "Doctorcito," began as a classical oriented composition, modified with interspersed cha cha chá segments embracing electric guitar, piano and bass solos, for a contemporary alteration. Culminating in a full circle and going back to his roots "Bulecolumbia Con Timbal" has Morales on congas leading a brief but exciting hand drum session of rumba, columbia, bulería and abakuá rhythms, with an accompanying yoruban chant bidding farewell to the festivities.

On this production, Morales and company exhibit creative diversity, as well as a glimpse into a remarkable journey through the musical landscape which is the Caribbean. While accenting his Cuban heritage, Morales succeeded in incorporating the sophistication of his San Juan accompanists, who thrive in a city with strong cosmopolitan jazz sensibilities. This is Latin-Jazz in its true definition, performed by those who know this music best, and how it should be played.

Track Listing: No Más; My Gift; Albita; Ausencia; Omío; Lo Que Viene…; Blue Sea; Doctorcito; Bulecolumbia Con Timbal.

Personnel: Fidel Morales: drums, batá drums, congas, voice (9); Isaac Laurel: electric guitar (1); Yan Carlos Artime: piano (1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8); Ramón Vazquez: electric bass (1, 7, 8); Luis Marín: piano ( 2); Gabriel Rodriguez: double bass (2, 9), electric bass (3, 5, 6); Charlie Sepulveda: flugelhorn (2); Marco Pignataro: tenor sax (2); Savier Diaz: congas (2, 6, 7, 8, 9); Guillermo Barrón: cajon (2, 9); Raúl Romero: electric guitar (3); Bienvienido Dinzey: keyboard (3, 7, 8); Tiko Ortiz: tenor sax (3, 7, 8); Diego Centeno: iyá batá drum (3, 5); Javier Curet (itótele batá drum (3, 5); Ana María Perera : voice (3, 4, 5); Eddie Gomez: double bass (4); Eduardo Zayas: piano (4); Ricardo Pons: flute, tenor sax, baritone sax (5) tenor sax ( 6, 7, 8); Rubén Bulnes: apkwon, vocal chant (5); Daniel Ramirez: trumpet (6, 7); Fernando Mattina: electric guitar (8).

Title: Omío | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Omío Music World

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