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Alex “Apolo” Ayala Releases New Album: ‘Bámbula’

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Alex "Apolo" Ayala

Puerto Rican Bassist Alex “Apolo” Ayala pays tribute to his ancestors with his debut as a bandleader: Bámbula. Due out February 11, 2022 via Truth Revolution Records

Truth Revolution Records is proud to announce the upcoming release of Bámbula, the debut album from New York-based bassist and composer Alex “Apolo” Ayala. Due out February 11, 2022, Bámbula is a remarkable celebration of his Afro-Puerto Rican culture, a rumination on identity and a stirring tribute to his late mother and grandmother. Over the course of seven original compositions and one reimagination, the San Juan-native artfully blends Afro-Caribbean styles with jazz language, making an impactful and impressive musical statement. 

Album cover - Alex "Apolo" Ayala: Bámbula
Album cover – Alex “Apolo” Ayala: Bámbula

While Bámbula may be his first formal introduction as a leader, Ayala has established himself as an in-demand and distinctive artist on the New York City Latin Music and Jazz music circuits. His impressive resume includes performance credits with renowned Latin music giants such as Gilberto SantaRosa, Roberto Rohena, Richie Ray & Bobby Cruz, Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Mambo Legends Orchestra, Paoli Mejias, Ralph Irrizary, Giovanni Hidalgo, Edsel Gomez, and many, many others. Currently, he plays with the Antonio Hart Quartet, Mike Eckroth Latin Jazz Quartet, Trombeatz, Flavio Silva’s Break Free, and serves as the Musical Director of Los Pleneros de la 21. 

With Bámbula, Ayala comes into his own as a leader. The album was heavily inspired by the social unrest that unfolded in the summer of 2020 as a result of the killing of George Floyd. “I found myself reflecting about both my race, and my ethnicity. A word that kept resonating in my mind was ‘identity.’ Specifically, Afro-Puerto Rican identity”,” Ayala shares. He also thought about his ancestors. With these sentiments in mind, Ayala began to construct what would become his debut album. 

The title Bámbula means “the memory of a forgotten place.” Ayala shares that the Kikongo (Bantu language) word is “the act of re-remembering who you are as a person, tapping into the collective unconscious. The Bámbula is the oldest known rhythm of the Bomba complex.” Bomba is Puerto Rico’s oldest and purest musical art form. “Bomba is the music that our African ancestors brought with them to the Americas. It is the most authentic expression of Puerto Rican Blackness,” he reflects. Each song on Ayala’s debut has a purpose, and each is an homage and tribute to these ancestors, and specifically, his late mother and grandmother. 


For the occasion, the bandleader turned to the rich Puerto Rican diaspora in New York City, employing an impressive crew of talented musicians. Consummate improviser and instrumentalist Iván Renta displays an arresting lyricism and rhythmic control as the main melodic voice, supported by the vigorous drums and percussion of Fernando García and Nelson Mateo González. 

“Renta on saxophone was my first option from day one,” Ayala says while discussing his band. “He is a multilingual player equally at home in jazz and Afro-Puerto Rican languages. García is a master in applying the languages of Bomba and the barril de bomba vocabulary into the drum set and Nelson Mateo González is to me, the premier Afro-Puerto Rican drummer in town. His vast knowledge of the language Bomba and the bomba drum is amazing to behold.”

The bright “Café y Bomba” features the sultry voice of Anna Louise Andersson singing both lyrics and melodic parts that blend beautifully with the ensemble. “Anna Louise is like a breath of fresh air. Her voice is clean, her intonation is remarkable, and her vocal range and skill are incredible,” Ayala adds.

As a composer, Ayala finds compelling ways of orchestrating, resulting in the small ensemble truly maximizing the potential of their instruments. On “Bozales,” one can hear Renta doubling bass lines with the bandleader and playing rhythmic background parts while García and González play intricate drum breaks in perfect unison. This is just one example where the sound is greater than the sum of its parts. Another highlight is “Jíbaro Negro” which features an outstanding solo by Ayala and displays the excellent synchronicty between García and González. The record ends with an enigmatic arrangement of the “Tite” Curet Alonso Catalino classic “Las Caras Lindas,” a profound song about the beauty of Afro-Caribbean heritage. The group’s rendition offers a more subdued approach, making it a master stroke as the album’s closer.

*Source: Lydia Liebman Promotions

Founder, Editor, Webmaster: Latin Jazz Network, World Music Report, That Canadian Magazine. A passionate and committed communicator with a sensibility for the arts based in Toronto, Canada.

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New Releases

Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band to release new recording: “Vox Humana”

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Drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, bandleader, educator, Bobby Sanabria
Drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, bandleader, educator, Bobby Sanabria

Celebrating 25 years! The multi-Grammy nominated Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band is set to release their new recording: “Vox Humana” featuring vocalists Janis Siegel, Antoinette Montague, Jennifer Jade Ledesna.

Recorded Live at Dizzy’s Club Cola in NYC
Release Date: Spring 2023
Record Label: Jazzheads

New York – January 18th – On the heels of their Grammy nominated and 2019 Jazz Journalists Association Album of the Year Award winning critically acclaimed masterwork, West Side Story Reimagined, and in celebration of their 25th anniversary – drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, bandleader, educator, Bobby Sanabria and his Multiverse Big Band return with their most ambitious work to date, VOX HUMANA.

Bobby states, “Over the course of our many Grammy nominated albums we’ve occasionally featured tracks with vocals. But I’ve always envisioned doing an entire vocal album framed by the Multiverse Big Band. Now with three of today’s greatest contemporary singing talents – multi-Grammy award winner Janis Siegel from the Manhattan Transfer, blues and jazz Queen Antoinette Montague, and the multilingual powerhouse, Jennifer Jade Ledesna, today that vision has finally become a reality.

The individually distinct voices that Janis, Antoinette, and Jennifer possess make them each unique. But the X factor they all have is they are all masterful improvisors in the best sense of the jazz tradition. Added to the mix is our great conguero, Oreste Abrantes, who also sings lead on two tracks. Having that multi- dimensional vocal talent framed by the power, nuance, and tonal variety that only a big band can provide, combined with the repertoire I’ve chosen to showcase them and the band and the incredible variety of Afro- Latin, straight ahead swing, funk, R&B, and rock rhythmic vocabulary that we are masters of and readily have at our disposal in the Multiverse, I believe VOX HUMANA will prove to be our greatest achievement. 

Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band: "Vox Humana"
Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band: “Vox Humana”

That repertoire has a personal meaning to me as I see VOX HUMANA as a biographical work. I’m a product of my environment. I’m a Nuyorican, a person of Puerto Rican descent growing up in New York City. In my case the South Bronx during a time period when pop, jazz, R&B, rock, funk, and Latin music of all kinds all co-existed as equals. It was the last era when the big bands of masters like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Machito, Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, Don Ellis, and more were in the public eye, and they became my heroes. Vocalists who could deliver a message with subtlety, nuance, and when needed, power, were called upon to deliver poetry crafted by genius song writers. You’ll hear all that and more through the soaring vocals and improv talents of Janis, Antoinette, and Jennifer, along with Oreste, as well as the incredible jazz-oriented arrangements and exciting Pan Afro-Latin rhythms played by a big band that literally takes no prisoners when it hits the stage.”

The repertoire Bobby speaks of includes 1 original and 12 unique re-workings of pop hits like Spooky, Christine Aguilera’s Genie In a Bottle, and Steely Dan’s Do It Again; NEA Jazz Master Eddie Palmieri’s, Mi Congo and Puerto Rico along with the island’s greatest composer, Rafael Hernandez’s, Capullito De Aleli; the classic Joe Cuba R&B bolero, To Be With You; Brazilian standards Partido Alto and Amazonas; and from the world of Broadway theater, I Love You Porgy, and the iconic jump blues, Let The Good Times Roll. The CD also includes an original message bearing piece, Who Taught You That, as well as what may possibly be the most exciting interpretation of the Ellington associated classic, Caravan, and that has ever been recorded. 

Adding to the excitement of the performance, VOX HUMANA was recorded in front of a live audience. Bobby states, “As with our previous work, we recorded VOX HUMANA live at NYC’s Dizzy’s Club Coca – Cola. My musicians represent NYC’s finest. That means they’re the greatest in the world. The added level of excitement created by the audience inspired us in the MULTIVERSE Big Band to a heightened new level of performance virtuosity that listeners will hear explode out of the speakers just as the audience at Dizzy’s experienced in person.”

The history of the Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band is indeed one based on his rich multi-cultural heritage as a Nuyorican growing up in New York City’s South Bronx. His concept of having a big band that has no genre boundaries with limitless possibilities was forged 25 years ago back in 1998. It has yielded a series of groundbreaking, critically acclaimed albums that have all been Grammy-nominated with the band thrilling audiences worldwide at venues like the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, The Ravinia Festival, Verona Jazz Festival in Europe, and more.

Content Source: Two for the Show Media

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