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Yeska: Skafrocubanjazz

Ed Kopp By

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The word Yeska is Chicano slang for marijuana, but the only thing that seems high about this band is the caliber of its music.

As the title of this CD indicates, Yeska is a jazz ensemble that fuses Jamaican ska with Afro-Cuban rhythms. Yeska's debut release is eminently danceable and polyrhythmic, but it's also the rare pop-jazz release that should appeal equally to jazz purists and the public at large.

An eight-piece band from Los Angeles made up mainly of young Latino musicians, Yeska features hot ska grooves, tight horns and a powerful Latin-style rhythm section. Particularly impressive are the piano stylings of Walter Miranda, who punctuates these 10 tracks with spicy fills and creative solos.

An offshoot of L.A.'s thriving Rock en Espanol scene, Yeska is clearly influenced by the classic Latin jazz of Tito Puente and Mongo Santamaria. But Yeska's pulsing ska grooves and occasional dollops of funk extend that Latin-jazz sound in an exciting new direction.

Though similar to other ska-jazz bands like Jazz Jamaica and the New York Ska-Jazz Ensemble, Yeska seems a tighter outfit, at least on Skafrocubanjazz. This one's well worth checking out.

Title: Skafrocubanjazz | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Aztlan

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