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The Afro-Caribbean Jazz Collective: Fiesta at Caroga



The Afro-Caribbean Jazz Collective
The Afro-Caribbean Jazz Collective - Photo: Facebook

It is hard not to fall for the vivacious music of José Guzmán and The Afro-Caribbean Jazz Collective; even to want more once Fiesta at Caroga ends just under three-quarters of an hour. That does constitute enough playing time to make it a full-length album, but the music is rather good, and you will want more. Mr Guzmán and his collective deliver the six pieces with appropriate effervescence – particularly the opening Descarga 2 – and the slower numbers – including the wonderfully danceable Xipirona Cha Cha, and the slower bolero with heartfelt emotion.

There is nothing sensational in a gratuitous way, nor is there anything sensationalist either. Yet the manner in which the performers in the ensemble negotiate the twists, turns and subtle cornering of the harmonic invention – and that too, without the aid of a pianist – is totally disarming and without a trace of self-consciousness. Hear, too, the bustling energy when required, which never tips over into a gaudy display, and the faultless repeated notes [in the playing of the trio of rhythmists] that never degenerate into machine-gun rattle.

The Afro-Caribbean Jazz Collective: Fiesta at Caroga
The Afro-Caribbean Jazz Collective: Fiesta at Caroga

Although this is certainly a ‘collective’ in the sense of communal sharing of musical ideas, much of the direction certainly comes from Mr Guzmán by virtue of highly accomplished and communicative musicianship. This is clear from the transitions between ensemble and soli. However, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge – as the album cover does – the contribution of the tenor saxophonist Brian Stark. Not only does his palette of vibrant colours inform the velvet-toned tenor that he brings into the limelight each time he is called upon to do so, but his two originals – El Volcán and Baile Bailekita are superbly crafted works.

However, we are constantly reminded that this is a well-oiled collective. Each song is played with a cheeky athleticism. Each player has his own fresh ideas of how to articulate and colour the details of this music, at the service of a convincing sense of drama and pacing. This is eminently clear on the bolero El Volcán where the slow gliding movement of the piece is magically suspended with the addition of The Caroga Arts String Orchestra [a softly sensuous violin solo – sadly uncredited – ensues before the end].

The addition of the string ensemble on Baile Bailekita is also an inspired addition. But it is the darting articulation of the Collective that propels this work to its finale. The fleeting baile brings to an end an elegant, most enjoyable disc by a group of whom much more is expected – and is sure to be delivered in short order.

Deo gratis…

YouTube Playlist – The Afro-Caribbean Jazz Collective: Fiesta at Caroga

Music – 1: Descarga 2; 2: Xipirona Cha Cha; 3: El Cañaveral; 4: El Volcán; 5: Cariño; 6: Baile Bailekita.

Musicians – Eric Devey: trumpet; Brian Stark: tenor saxophone; Ben Weisiger: trombone; Ian Stewart: bass; José Guzmán: guitar; Stephan Busath: congas; Sebastian Nasser: timbales; Brian Shank: percussion; The Caroga Arts String Orchestra: [5, 6].

Released – 2024
Label – Independent
Runtime – 41:51

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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