Fito Garcia has taken a small albeit bold step with the making of this record, Mi Bajo Rumbero. There is a sincere attempt to explore the harmonics of the bass as a critical voice in the creation of music. The German bassist, Eberhard Weber made a memorable record in this vein several years ago and on Pendulum (ECM, 1993). Weber did just that: using ingenious electronics and live playing he created an extended piece that developed the harmonics of the bass as never before. This meant adding overtones to certain passages and creating contrapuntal melodies that raced alongside ostinato passages, Eberhard Weber produced a work of immense beauty. But that was a sojourn for solo bass.
Fito Garcia has done no less. Unusually he chose the Latin idiom and layered his music with several bass parts, some played by him and others played by Ignacio Cervantes. The result might have been simplistic because the music is driven by traditional Afro-Cuban forms – son, montuno, rumba and mambo – but in opening up the tonal palette of the bass, Garcia has succeeded in creating something quite remarkable.
In this conjunto with a twist, bassists Garcia and Cervantes are joined by bongocero, tumbador/conguero Manuel Sanchez who uses the full range of percussion colors to add fire to the music. The four-member choral back up led by Garcia’s wife, Marlin Ramazzini – a fine vocalist in her own right – extends the spirit of the son by harmonizing further and creating a soft set of tones that contrast with the sharp edges of the bass. This is an unusual group playing almost straight without piano, tres and accordion or strings that is customary with a typical Orquesta. But none of that is missed as Garcia and Cervantes create interesting counter-melody and cultured harmonics throughout with percussion embellishing the clave. The vocal harmonies wherever they enter the music add delightful narrative moods and link the music to the tradition.
“Mi Bajo Rumbero” sets a brisk pace, but it is songs such as “Mi Son” and “Pa Que Siga Andando” that emerge as unforgettable tracks. On “Misterio,” a cha-cha-cha, the basses combine wonderfully as one plays interesting triads as the other echoes the melody. “Balada a Norma” is a fine, moody piece that contrasts with the quicker music on the record. Perhaps the only disappointment – if any can be felt – is that the record is all too short. Just when the fun begins the record ends and it is not impossible to wish it could have gone on a bit longer. If this were live music, how about an encore or two?
It bears mention that Fito Garcia is an accomplished musician who has won the respect of his peers in the business. Some years ago he made a record with the Juno Award winning Ancient Cultures, Camino Real. He also played a significant role in the music of his wife, Marlin Ramazzini, whose Quiero Ser Yo was nominated for the West Coast Award in Vancouver, Canada. While Awards alone do not mean an artist has arrived this is all too true of Fito Garcia, whose name will surely feature regularly in the years to come as he gets down to thinking up ways to exceed the ground covered by Mi Bajo Rumbero.
Tracks: Mi Bajo Rumbero; Misterio; Kristal; Tu Tienes; Amanece; Balada a Norma; Mi Son; Pa’Que Siga Andando.
Personnel: Fito Garcia: bass; Ignacio Cervantes (Chispa): bass; Jose Manuel Sanchez: percussion; Marlin Ramazzini, Carlos Cascante, Alberto Alberto and Ronald Gonzalez: lead vocals; Julio Juaregui, Fito Garcia, Marlin Ramazzini, Carlos Cascante, Regla Monet and Gilberto Moreaux: backup vocals.
Fito Garcia on the web: www.myspace.com/fitogarciabass
Review written by: Raul da Gama
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