Review by Guest Author Luis Tamargo
Former senior editor of Latin Beat Magazine and music historian
Consisting mostly of originals, the most recent self-production of the Havanese drummer / percussionist / composer / arranger / educator Fidel Morales must be regarded as one of the best jazz projects ever recorded in Puerto Rico, where he has resided since 2006.
Utilizing diverse instrumental formats (from trio to octet) and a variable but formidable international cast of musicians (Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans, and Mexicans), Morales has elaborated what he properly describes as “an Afro-Cuban jazz disc with a fusion of rhythms and colors.”
In fact, he has managed to cover a wide range of complex rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic structures, from the modal colors and Cuban-Peruvian mixture of “My Gift” (dedicated to the gifted but introverted saxophonist from Guanabacoa named José Carlos Acosta and nicknamed “El Chino,” or “Chinaman”) and the funky Afro-Cuban/Panamanian combination of “Albita” (no relation to the famous neo-guajira vocalist), to the bitonal elements and songo-timba-abakuá blend of “Lo que viene” and the 7/8 meter applied to the hypnotic bomba sicá-songo encounter of “Blue Sea”. Not to mention the joyful chachachá climax of “Doctorcito” (coauthored by the outstanding Cuban pianist Miguel Angel de Armas, better known as “Pan con Salsa”), the rumba-bulería-abakuá jam titled “Bulecolumbia con Timbal,” or the magnanimous lucumí manifestations of the title track, in which the batá rhythms are sometimes adapted to Morales’ drumset.
My favorite track, however, is the gorgeous adaptation as a jazz ballad (to the trio format associated with the late Bill Evans) of the Rafael Hernández bolero titled “Ausencia” (not to be confused with Rodrigo Prats’ “Ausencia”), which highlights the intervention of the legendary Puerto Rican double bassist Eddie Gómez (Evans’ surviving accomplice), in conjunction with the talented pianist Eduardo Zayas (in lieu of Evans, of course) and our inventive musical protagonist, plus an impressive guest artist —the exiled vocalist Ana María Perera.
Track List: No Más; My Gift; Albita; Ausencia; Omío; Lo que viene; Blue Sea; Doctorcito; Bulecolumbia con timbal.
Personnel: Fidel Morales: drums, (okónkolo) bàtá drum, congas, voice (9); Isaac Laurel: electric guitar (1); Yan Carlos Artime: piano (1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8); Ramón Vázquez: electric bass (1, 7, 8); Luis Marín: piano ( 2); Gabriel Rodríguez: double bass (2, 9), electric bass (3, 5, 6); Charlie Sepúlveda: flugelhorn (2); Marco Pignataro: tenor sax (2); Savier Díaz: congas (2, 6, 7, 8, 9); Guillermo Barrón: cajón (2, 9); Raúl Romero: electric guitar (3); Bienvenido Dinzey: keyboard (3, 7, 8); Tiko Ortiz: tenor sax (3, 7, 8); Diego Centeno: (iyá) bàtá drum (3, 5); Javier Curet (itótele) bàtá drum (3, 5); Ana María Perera: voice (3, 4, 5); Eddie Gómez: double bass (4); Eduardo Zayas: piano (4); Ricardo Pons: flute, tenor sax, baritone sax (5) tenor sax ( 6, 7, 8); Rubén Bulnes: apkwon, vocal chant (5); Daniel Ramírez: trumpet (6, 7); Fernando Mattina: electric guitar (8).