One important aspect of the music on this disc that strikes you almost immediately is that a Hammond B3 organ is melded in with the Organic Merengue (Merengue Orgánico). Alex Diaz could not have found a more important musician to bring the sanctified sound of a Holy Rolling Southern AME church into the grassroots music of The Dominican Republic. Greg Lewis is one of the finest exponents of the instrument and not just for the facility with which he plays the instrument, but for the fact that he is able to inform this music with the elemental fervour in the African (spiritual) influences that unites the African diaspora across the Caribbean and the United States.
Editor’s Pick · Featured Album · Organic Merengue
It takes one cursory look at the repertoire to realise, however, that it’s certainly not selected from the hymnals of either The Dominican Republic or the United States. From the fact that three of the authors of the music on this disc are colourfully secular men such as Frank Foster, Hermeto Pascoal and Vince Guaraldi, it is clear that this is also meant to be a celebration of the uniqueness of the music – merengue and Jazz – and the deeply African rhythms present in both styles that acts as the beautiful glue that holds it all together. And although there is a certain “bigness” to the performance it’s certainly not why this music makes a powerful impression on the mind’s ear and the body’s central nervous system where the brain sends out a command to “get up and dance”.
The performance at times has all the visceral energy of a full-blooded comparsa and even if the Diablo Cojuelo doesn’t necessarily make an appearance, the suggestion of ghost in all his regalia is ever-present in the joyous expression of the music. Thus, Frank Foster’s balladry is also pummeled by the ferocious conga break from Alex Diaz. Greg Lewis’ organ adds a rich and not entirely unpredictable harmonic foundation to Hermeto Pascoal’s “Amazonas”, Vince Guaraldi’s “Ginza Samba” has a rippling jazzy groove with the percussive tumbling groove, driven not only by Mr. Diaz, but also by the punching staccato lines of Ivan Renta’s tenor saxophone, adding worldly tone colours to Greg Lewis’ twinkling Americana. And the saxophone swings with mighty abandon on the ebullient “Amigos Juntos” from the great Mario Rivera.
Organic Merengue is nothing if not touching and toe-tapping in equal measure.
Track list – 1: Simone; 2: Amazonas; 3: Ginza Samba; 4: Amigos Juntos; 5: En la Oscuridad; 6: Yesterday; 7: Dominicanita
Personnel – Alex Diaz: leader, congas and guiro; Ivan Renta: alto and tenor saxophones; Greg Lewis: Hammond B3 organ; Joel Mateo: drums; Ramón Azor: tambora; Nelsón Jaime “Gazú”: trumpet (7)
Released – 2018
Label – Independent
Runtime – 37:19