Alí Bello & The Sweet Wire Band: Inheritance
The title of the album Inheritance couldn’t be a more appropriate one for an album by Alí Bello for it firmly establishes him as a worthy heir apparent to a rich musical topography that stretches from heartland of Venezuela through Caracas – indeed through the rhythmic landscape of the Afro-Caribbean Diaspora – coming to fruition in the beehive of contemporary music that is New York City. The fact that his breathtaking virtuoso playing of the violin also makes him an heir-apparent of sorts to the instrument’s great tradition and is, of course, the special bonus to this inheritance.
Mr Bello does not take this gift lightly but pours his gratitude into songs that appear as elegant confections whose ingredients are artful melodies enhanced with the mystique of [the music’s] harmonies magically blended as if by a master-perfumier. The glue to all these eloquent creations is the rhythms – vibrant and life-affirming and almost completely unique to Venezuela. The dynamism of Mr Bello’s ingenuity is palpable right out of the gate, with his impressionistic vision of a “Kaleidoscopic Sunset”. It is an engaging, dancing opener that states not only the creator’s joyous intentions but also draws the listener into the rhythmic heart of Mr Bello’s musical universe.
His musicianship floats with mesmerizing intent over all the music in this repertoire featuring arrangements of irresistible seduction. This may be a string-driven album of music, but the works have also been crafted upon a majestic harmonic and rhythmic foundation. The surprises, when they come, are numerous, effective and made of hearty joropo, gaita zuliana and Venezuelan calypso made by a master musician steeped in tradition, but not imprisoned by it. There is also, everywhere, evidence of Mr Bello’s Venezuelan but universal-leaning musical personality.
You hear this in the sculpted exchanges between Mr Bello and Jaleel Shaw, for instance, on “Heartbeat”. You also hear this in the elegiac music of “Song to Marina”, where he trades verses with the inimitable Regina Carter – the proverbial Queen of the Violin. The apogee, however [for me, at least] is the group’s performance on “Cepa”, which features Jorge Glem – the certifiable genius – of the Venezuelan cuatro. There is much more of such sheer brilliance everywhere on this recording.
This is Mr Bello’s album, but while he makes it all come together with the majesty of his violin playing, to suggest that he does all of this on his own would be incorrect. The beauty of this music is redolent of a shimmering performance by pianist Gabriel Chakarji, the thunderous wall of rhythm created by drummer Ismael Baiz and percussion colourist mastery Manuel Márquez and the rumbling gravitas of bassist Gabriel Vivas. A veritable cornucopia of masterful musicians are also present on this album, among them the jugador de maraca – one Manuel Rangel – about whom much more will be revealed as his own nascent career unfolds.
This may be Mr Bello’s sophomore album, but it is certainly one for the ages.
Track list – 1: Kaleidoscopic Sunset; 2: Heartbeat; 3: Caracas; 4: Song to Marina; 5: Bello’s Blues; 6: Jojo; 7: For All Saints; 8: Cepa; 9: Ousia
Personnel – The Sweet Wire Band – Alí Bello: acoustic, electric and baritone violins; Gabriel Chakarji: keyboards; Gabriel Vivas: bass guitar; Ismael Baiz: drum set; Manuel Márquez: fulía, cumaco, clarín, paila, bumbac, congas, bongos, güira, bell and maracas.
Featured Artists – Regina Carter: violin ; Jaleel Shaw: soprano and alto saxophones [2, 5]; Jeff Lederer: clarinet ; Jorge Glem: Venezuelan cuatro [6, 8].
Guest Artists – Javier Olivencia: soprano and tenor saxophones [1, 7, 9]; Jeremy Smith: maracas [3, 8]; Manuel Rangel: maracas ; Eddie Venegas: trombone ; Bambam Rodríguez: bass guitar .
Released – 2020
Label – AGBA Music 
Runtime – 51:22
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