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Angel Roman & Mambo Blue: Festive Interplay

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Angel Roman & Mambo Blue

For an ensemble as medium-sized as Angel Roman & Mambo Blue what you get on Festive Interplay is big music-making; soaring horns – both brass and woodwinds – superb, virtuoso playing by a group of pianists and keyboards players, a rhythmically vibrant drummer and percussion colourists. All of this is topped up by the wide-ranging musicianship of the prodigious bassist and leader, Mr Roman, who drives the tempo of the performance with idiomatically beautiful playing to cement the sinewy wall of rhythm built by his drummers, percussionists and keyboardists.

Album cover - Angel Roman & Mambo Blue: Festive Interplay
Album cover – Angel Roman & Mambo Blue: Festive Interplay

Mr Roman directs from his sleek bass lines appropriately so. This enables such luminaries as trumpeter Pete Rodriguez, trombonist Andre Hayward, saxophonists Russell Haight and Justin Vasquez, and flutist John Mills to play roles dictated by deeply interiorising the music. The result is splendid performances from every soloist – and not just the horns, but also pianists and drummers and percussionists, each of whose particular skill is subtly highlighted. Songs such as “Dreaming of Bomba” are propelled by frenetic rhythm, but the emotion of the music is not lost on the listener being that Mr Roman is writing from the perspective of living in Texas – far from the visceral energy of Puerto Rico and El Barrio in New York City. On that – and several other tunes, the music is supple and yet has a breathtaking pace marked by pithy embellishments from the bassist and other members of the rhythm section.

This is, after all, the work of Angel Roman, a wonderful composer and superb instrumentalist who directs the proceedings from his muscular bass. He uses phrasing of infinite variety to decorate his bass lines and enhance tonal colour, eschewing the infuriating anachronism of emphasising harmonic rhythm. This inspires the rest of the musicians, beguiled by the melodic and rhythmic spells, into a breathtakingly atmospheric evocation of music that is spacious and yet interspersed with shadows of gentle agitation… a highly artistic musical excursion.  

Track list – 1: Why Not; 2: Collective Cha; 3: Dreaming in Bomba; 4: Festive Interplay; 5: Never Far; 6: Not Sure So Sure; 7: 3 Sisters; 8: The Quest; 9: Indi Go-Go [Alegria]; 10: Who Knows Maybe Tomorrow

Personnel – Pete Rodriguez: trumpet; Andre Hayward: trombone; Russell Haight: tenor saxophone; Justin Vasquez: alto saxophone; John Mills: flute; Damian A. García: piano and Fender Rhodes [1 – 3, 5 – 10]; Joel Guzman: piano and synthesizers [2, 4]; Nicholas Litterski: piano [1]; Angel Roman: bass guitar; Jose Aponte: drums [1, 8]; Brannen Temple: drums [1, 9, 10]; Andy Smith: drums [2 – 7, 9, 10], pandeiro, bàtá, rain stick and timbal [1, 4, 8 – 10]; Samuel Lopez: bàtá, chekeré, güiro and barril de Bomba [2, 3]; Carmelo Torres: congas, and bàtá, chekeré, cowbell and güiro [5, 7, 8]

Released- 2021
Label – Independent
Runtime – 58:18

Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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