It is apocryphal that you can take the Colombian out of the Cumbia, but you can never take the Cumbia out of the Colombian. Thus the now-Austrian-based Colombian bassist Juan García-Herreros has been endowed with the infinite beauty of Colombian rhythms even as he bends and stretches these and melding them with the swirling and swaggering Afro-Caribbean rhythms, and further, with the exciting elasticity of jazz. Mr. García-Herreros’ music has a leaping quality to it; not unlike a gazelle, intoxicated with the smell of spring rain. He does not give the impression of being in a hurry himself, but rather lays the foundation for enriching the complexity of the music. Of course Mr. García-Herreros is also a sublime rhythmist, fed on a heady mix of Colombian—indeed all Latin American music, including Afro-Caribbean as well as folkloric traipsing in the dancing figures he creates on his considerably enhanced bass guitar. The music on Normas rings with such a fanciful and a rigorous adherence to the paths that bring about the changes and contemporaneity to the music, which is established by a culture of sound.
Much of this is recorded in “Huellas,” a chart that means “footprints” begins to trace a fabulous path through the jungle, awake with bird calls and the rustle of spring, announced by the wind rushing through the leaves. The majesty of the music is further established by the bright and resonant notes hammered out on the balafon by Mamadou Diabate. Brass and woodwinds add a certain softness and voluptuous texture to the harmonic tapestry, further supported by the strings of the 12-string guitar. All this as Mr. García-Herreros cuts a swathe through the melody and builds up the piece until an uncredited synthesizer masquerading as a pipe-organ takes over to build on the musical magisterium. This is a perfect introduction to the propulsive nature of “Impulso Interno,” where that other magician from Colombia, Héctor Martignon plays in counterpoint with the guitarist, Conrad Schrenk. The triangulated contrapuntal harmonics are established almost as soon as Juan García-Herreros enters the music roaring on his bass guitar.
It might seem that pianist Héctor Martignon does not have the kind of role that enables him to make his customary stellar presence felt, but then along comes “Cuerpo Y Alma,” a deeply moving song that is made so by the ponderous bass clarinet of Klaus Dickbauer and Mr. Martignon soon joins in the fracas fulfilling his potential as one of the most poignant players of that grand instrument. He is also omnipresent on “Som I Serem.” This is probably one of the most breathtaking compositions among all of the music on this album, due in no small part to Mr. Dickbauer and Mr. Martignon. Other contributions come in the form of conguero, Roberto Quintero, whose energy is infectious. The West African contingent in the form of percussionists Djakali Kone and Mamadou Diabate also bring much musicality in the colours they employ via their various instruments. But in the end it is the Snow Owl, Juan García-Herreros and his ubiquitous bass guitar that makes the melodies more breathtaking, the harmonies more texturally exquisite and the rhythmic energy more powerful throughout this rather beautiful album.
Track List: Señor C.P.; Huellas; Impulso Interno; Cuerpo Y Alma; Som I Serem; Touched; Hearts of Ether.
Personnel: Juan García-Herreros: electric contrabass guitar; Jonathan Powell: trumpet (1, 2, 3, 6, 7); Héctor Martignon: piano; Conrad Schrenk: electric guitar (3); Klaus Dickbauer: bass clarinet (4); Abdoulaye Dembele: percussion (2); Djakali Kone: percussion (2); Mamadou Diabate: balafon, percussion (2); Roberto Quintero: percussion (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7); Alexander Wladigeroff: trumpet, flugelhorn; Daniel Mesquita: 12-string guitar (2); Stoyan Yankoulov: drums; Jeremy Powell: tenor saxophone.