The drummer and composer Fernando García is like other celebrated contemporary Puerto Rican poet-musicians [that is, musicians alive today] such as Miguel Zenón, David Sánchez and others. Mr García, has followed his other eminent colleagues, all of whom have sworn allegiance to continue to revitalize their artistic tradition. And so, like the ocean rhythmic waves that rose high, only to beat ashore with the great Ismael Rivera, Tito Puente, Tito Rodríguez, Ray Barretto as well as Willie Colón and Héctor Lavoe, [to name but a few] and others, the music of this generation stands out in ways that are deeply rooted in the Afro-Caribbean musical continuum that propelled the music of earlier generations. The beautiful and energetic melodies and rhythms of the island heartland come to life so eloquently in the repertoire of Behique by Mr García in the company of other fine musicians.
The bountiful wealth of Afro-Caribbean music is almost as boundless as the vernacular of the various cultures that make up the diaspora inhabiting the various islands. When listening to the music of Puerto Rico one is often struck by the fact that the artistic nuances of that island’s cultural topography – particularly its musical vernacular – is often lost in proverbial translation because its joyful noise has often been overwhelmed by the infinitely, albeit equally joyful noise of the Puerto Rican music emanating from El Barrio in Harlem. It’s not that one variant is better than the other, but that perhaps, the fact that New Yorkers are always jostling for “share of voice” that Puerto Rican music made in the USA “out-shouts” the dances and songs that echo the traditional song and dance of the Island.
Mr García uses the wordless vocals of Claudia Tebar as vocalise, to weave together the independent melodic and harmonic strands of the music. [He sings too, but Ms Tebar is the main voice on this album]. Ms Tebar adds much luminosity to the music that we hear. The other lead voices – such as those of guitarist Gabriel Vicéns and saxophonist Jan Kus are just as significantly to the songfulness of this music. Meanwhile Mr García – together with pianist Gabriel Chakarji and bassist Dan Martínez – is designer-in-chief of the pulsating architecture of the traditional rhythms – bomba and plena, also evocative of the jíbaro people – which energise the music, making it reverberate and sway. A particularly charming highlight is when one of the vocalists sings décimas [seis and aguinaldo] which adds to the rustic charm of the song in which it is sung.
The barril of Víctor Pablo García adds mightily to the rolling thunder of Mr García’s drums. And while all the performers contribute significantly to the music, the recording owes much to the musicianship of Mr García. Not for him is an empty display of pyrotechnics or sentimental indulgence. The entire repertoire on this album is rigorous and driven by architectural acuity. The enigmatic studies of Puerto Rico’s traditional rhythms are not the easiest to crack, but Mr García’s insightful percussion colours have the measure of their energetic introspection and fantasy. The song Nuevas Vibras is easily the apogee for the album.
You Tube Video – Fernando García: Behique
Music – 1: Alegría; 2: Esperanza; 3: Behique; 4: Meli Ton Ton Be; 5: Unión; 6: Yubá La Marilé; 7: Popurrí de Bomba; Nuevas Vibras
Musicians – Gabriel Chakarji: piano and Hammond organ ; Dan Martínez: bass; Fernando García: drums and vocals; Víctor Pablo García: barril, backing vocals, and vibraphone ; Gabriel Vicéns: electric guitar; Jan Kus: tenor saxophone, and soprano saxophone ; Claudia Tebar: vocals.
Released – 2023
Label – Independent
Runtime – 50:24
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