Whatever music Bobby Matos chooses to inhabit is sure to be brimful – even overflowing – with energy. On this record, Unity, Matos attempts to take his bandmates on a profound, if rhythmic journey. He is attempting to almost metaphysically mirror here the rhythm of the earth in a state of constant unifying – swinging, heart-beating, bebopping – rhythmic revolution. And he lets the music do the talking, or dancing, as is more likely the case.
It is axiomatic that Bobby Matos represents all that is rich and rhythmically interesting about the Puerto Rican music scene. Matos is also well versed in the other subtly shifting Latin rhythms and a master of the Afro-centric universe from where it has derived – jazz included. Lest there be a suggestion that there is only a rhythmic vibe to be excited here on this record, it is important to be clear about Matos’ penchant for harmonic invention and long liner melodies, whether written or interpreted by him.
His own composition, “Da Londons From Da Bronx ,” is typical of this: a melodic plena that is hugely humorous as well. “Oiganlo” the lilting charanga son is another example. To be sure this record pays glowing tribute to the traditional while recasting these forms in a daring modern context. The audacious, jazzy bomba, “Ritmo Bembe” and the recasting of Horace Silver’s classic “Peace” as a lilting bolero are complemented well by a stellar son, “McCoy.” Also, on “Peace,” just as he does on Wayne Shorter’s “Mahjong,” Pablo Calogero reveals just how raw and beautifully he can p[lay tenor saxophone. On “Cuchy Frito Man,” the quirky bomba, he is equally virtuosic on flute, while Dan Weinstein makes it a double whammy with his sophisticated violin. Weinstein returns on “Bronx ‘Trane” on the deeper viola and then for a pleasantly surprise as he doubles on trombone, of all instruments. His solos on “Mahjong” and “No Down, No Feathers” are truly magnificent.
The guests on this record – Chembo Corniel on percussion, Phoenix Rivera on drums, Binky Griptite on guitar, Bosco Mann on bass and The Mighty Echoes make wonderful bedfellows for Matos throughout the tunes that they play on. In fact the musicians on the record connect with each other on many levels and this is one of the main reasons why the music succeeds smoothly and seamlessly. Frank Fontaine stars on tenor, on the hypnotically modal “Bronx ‘Trane.” Pianist, Theo Sanders and Dan Weinstein also solo here with particularly beautiful expressiveness.
This is an accomplished record by every stretch of imagination. While much of the props would automatically go to Matos for guiding it where it must go, the whole group participates as it should – with hypnotic and beautiful unity throughout.
Tracks: Mahjong; Ritmo Bembe; Cuchy Frito Man; Ritmo Yambu; McCoy; Oiganlo; Peace; Bomba Sica; No Down, No Feathers; Algo Diferente; Da’ Londons from Da’ Bronx; Iyesa Afro Beat; Bronx ‘Trane; Soul Zambique.
Personnel: Theo Saunders: piano; John B. Williams: bass; Pablo Calogero: tenor saxophone, flute; Dan Weinstein: trombone, violin; Robertito Melendez: conga, Quinto, pandereta; Jud Matos: percussion; Bobby Matos: timbales, congas, guiro, bell; Frank Fontaine: tenor saxophone (13); Edwin Livingstone: bass (13); Special Guests: Chembo Corniel: congas, percussion; Phoenix Rivera: drums; Binky Griptite: guitar; Bosco Mann: bass; The Mighty Echoes: vocals.
Bobby Matos on the web: www.bobbymatosmusic.com
Review written by: Raul da Gama