It might seem easy to be mesmerised and swept away by the ceaseless dancing of Puerto Rican music from one odd time signature to another. And in the best of its exponents of rhythm – drummers such as Fernando García, for instance – there is a dazzling, seemingly never-ending variety of these that are trotted out on Guasábara Puerto Rico. But each becomes more meaningful in the drummer’s hands as his extraordinary recital on this disc unfolds. And even as the quality of his playing is altogether exceptional here it seems that he takes nothing for granted as he lays down one complex tattoo after the other. Nor should we take anything for granted in listening to him. Not that he does anything too wildly idiosyncratic, let alone provocatively iconoclastic. At the same time he clearly lets us know that he plainly understands this is no virtuoso show of force, but plainly one possibility of expressing the fascinating nature of Afro-Caribbean music through the Puerto Rican eyes of an expert young musician.
Editor’s Pick · Featured Album · Guasábara Puerto Rico
This is a very spiritual experience from the musicians’ point of view and it is possible for us to be drawn into its fascinating world if we allow ourselves to be taken into another unexpected world. Rhythmic revelations abound everywhere, especially in the grand, spacious “Healing Prayer”. In the bembé rhythms embedded in virtually all of the music – especially in the expertly navigation through tradition on “Guaynabo Mi Tambor” and the roaring finale of “Tiempo” – Mr. García is particularly alluring. Forget all the notions you ever had about the world Puerto Rican polyrhythms. In Mr. García’s hands it is revealed as a world full of glimmering light and enigmatic shadows; a world of mysterious depths, expectations, frustrations, hopes and doubts, not unlike the reality more than 200-days after the devastation of Maria and the extent of inhuman neglect of the current Federal regime. It’s not so quietly stated, but yet in the most artistically beckoning terms.
And the variety and stylishness of music such as that on the aptly entitled “Guasábara Puerto Rico” and the rest of this enterprising programme is matched, note for note, phrase for phrase in the breathless styling of the music of the rest of this repertoire. Throughout the disc Mr. García, together with musicians who are remarkably attuned to his vision and artistry, brings an urbanity and lyricism to all of these seductive, rhythm-driven works. Each contribution by the musicians is offered with buoyant, aristocratic grace and psychological ambiguity and with an almost insolently effortless and debonair virtuosity and swagger. Most of all we are drawn into this music by the sassy, stunning swing with which Mr. García introduces us to his secrets, evocations by a drummer that goes into a realm where few of his generation will even dare to venture.
Track list – 1: Audubon; 2: Ideas Convergentes; 3: Guasábara Puerto Rico; 4: Healing Prayer; 5: The Element; 6: Guaynabo Mi Tambor; 7: Se Va; 8: Tiempo
Personnel – Fernando García: drums and vocals (6); Dan Martínez: contrabass and electric bass (8); Gabriel Chakarji: piano; Gabriel Vicéns: guitar; Jan Kus: tenor saxophone; Victor Pablo: barril and congas; with special guest – Miguel Zenón: alto saxophone (3)
Released – 2018
Label – ZOHO Music
Runtime – 51:17