To employ a guitar in the melange of Latin music is no great deal, but to make use of the melodic and harmonic richness of the instrument over its rhythmic capability in the manner that El Movimiento have done on The Movement is quite courageous. Adam Agati has woven a mighty spell of seductive magic here. His mastery of the elements of melody and harmony are second to none and on this album, he certainly follows saxophonist Rashaan Barber close enough to embellish the idiomatic melange that Barber and trumpeter, Imer Santiago are trying to cook up here. The myriad influences that collide from Latin cultures of subtly different shades from Puerto Rico to Santo Domingo and the deep south of America which reaches far into Creole idioms derived from the native Africa are resplendent on this album that swings and shuffles in the heat and cool of Latin tinged music and hot jazz.
But there is a more serious side to El Mo, as the group is often referred to. The purported dedication of the ensemble is to take the music of Latin jazzists, Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri and Machito into an enriched realm that is infused with a myriad idioms and metaphors—from the contemporary cesspool. To evaluate the music, or respond to it at any rate, in any other way would be to short-change the artistry of the musicians. So, how do Barber, Rodriguez and Santiago—the main protagonists in this venture—fare against what they are trying to achieve? It may seem a tad premature to dive into this at this point, but the ensemble has certainly imbibed the rhythmic meters of various styles and all of this is cleverly deployed by Santiago’s percussion followed closely by drummers, Derrick Phillips and Marcus Hall. Dan Eubanks is a fine bassist and he not only holds things up, but also makes several side musical diversions walking with sass on the king-sized jam, “Bauzando.”
This chart is a key moment in The Movement on the record as the musicians employ deep reverence to connect with the music that El Rey and the founding fathers of Latin Jazz brought to bear on the continent. However it is also the moment of truth for El Mo and here the band let it all hang out especially when they break free of the so called Latin Jazz idioms and incorporate more contemporary musical elements in the chart. It bears mention, though that Imer Santiago’s blazing trumpet sets a hot pace, soon followed by Agati’s guitar and Barber’s saxophones orchestrated by the salsa of Giovanni Rodriguez’s polyrhythm’s. That and the music on “Mi Descarga” brings the moment of reckoning to the band and what it is trying to do. And from the sound of it, El Mo has a lot to say. Where they go from here and what musical excursions they encounter and what El Movimiento makes of it will decide the guts and glory of this unusual ensemble.
Tracks: El Seõor Esta Contigo (The Lord is With You); Brooklyn en la Casa (Brooklyn in the House); Acercate (Come Closer); Javanet Fanfare; Dan’s Thing; Bauzando; Sin Problemas ne Orgullo (Without Problems or Pride); Mi Descarga (My Jam); This is Me; Hypnosis; El Seõor Esta Contigo (The Lord is With You) Reprise.
Personnel: Rashaan Jelani Barber: soprano, alto, tenor saxophones; Imer Santiago: trumpet, flugelhorn; Giovanni Rodriguez: percussion; Adam Agati: acoustic, electric guitars, sitar guitar; Paul Horton: piano, Fender Rhodes; Dan Eubanks: acoustic and electric bass; Derrek Phillips: drums (1, 4 – 6, 9 – 12); Marcus Hill: drums (2, 3, 7, 8).
El Movimiento on the web: www.elmojazz.com
Review written by: Raul da Gama