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Bio Ritmo: Puerta del Sur

Chris M. Slawecki By

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Bio Ritmo has kept the salsa flame burning for more than twenty years. "We all share a passion for salsa, a music that encompasses so many different styles and influences," explains producer, composer, pianist and bandleader Marlysse Simmons. "It's rooted in the experimentation of blending rhythms and sounds and this is exactly what we love to do."

"Our mission from day one was to write original music in the classic salsa style," concurs lead composer and vocalist Rei Alvarez, "and experimentation is as much a part of the tradition as the wide-ranging Afro-Cuban genres that it's based on."

Much of Puerta del Sur sounds and feels like you've plugged into a salsa-charged power outlet. "Picaresca" is utterly flawless in design and execution, and bursts open with brilliant musicality from all the piano, trumpet, timbales and trombone blossoming like a salsa hothouse flower. "Motocilengua" sounds a little more languid but no less hot, a dance groove crackling with Latin piano, percussion and vocals.

The big-band ballad "Perdido" elegantly dances, stately yet lively behind its twin, harmonized lead vocals, a traditional salsa sound that serves as the fulcrum for Puerta Del Sur. Bob Miller's trumpet solo scorches the sky while piano, bass, drums and percussion interlock and prance in the finest Latin traditions—classic, contemporary or slightly unconventional.

One barely knows where to begin with "Codeína,"seven minutes that the band describes as "a Latin-bolero meets 1960s Egyptian-classical." Even a quote that colorful doesn't do justice to the ancient yet digital feel of this atmospheric closer, especially while bassist Edward Prendergast slips an icy-cool bolero into its rhythms and the band adorns the arrangement in Arabic percussion and strings. "Codeína" provides one more brilliant example of Bio Ritmo's gift for contemporizing the salsa tradition with bits of other musical traditions and more progressive songwriting and production.

Bio Ritmo produced their 2006 release Salsa System with Jon Fausty, engineer from the legendary Latin label Fania Records, an experience that Alvarez describes as "like going to salsa boot camp." "Puerta del Sur really shows the evolution of Bio Ritmo," says Fausty. "It's the best yet."

Track Listing: Se Les Olvidó; La Vía; Picaresca; Perdido; Motocilengua; Pájaro Pío Pío; Le Dicen Dolor; Codeína.

Personnel: Rei Alvarez: vocals, guiro, maracas, drum set; Marlysse Rose Simmons: piano, Farfisa VIP 600, Nord Electro 3, Juno 106, sound effects; Giustino Riccio: timbales, coro, drum set; Hector "Coco" Barez: congas, doumbek; Edward Prendergast: electric bass; Tobias Whitaker: trombone; Bob Miller: trumpet, coro, synthesizer; Mark Ingraham: cornet; John Lilley: tenor saxophone; Laura Ann Singh: coros; Bryan Vargas: cuatro; Chris Bates: trombone; JC Kuhl: baritone saxophone; Gabo Tomasini: bongos; Mike E. Montañez: bongos; Ellen Cockerham: violin; Treesa Gold: violin; Kim Ryan: viola; Matt Gold: bass.

Title: Puerta del Sur | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Vampisoul Records

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