Victor Rendón – Fiesta Percusiva (Private/Independent, 2008)

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Fiesta Percusiva, the title of this album by master percussionist and multi-instrumentalist, Victor Rendón does not even begin to describe fully the depth of this project. Sure it is a celebration. Which record driven by Latin rhythms is not? Yet it is much more than this. It is an emotional journey into the world of percussion from various corners of the Latin world. But that world is so vast that it must certainly come to be known as a veritable galaxy. This is a master class on the use of percussion to create a harmonic environment so vast and rich in polyrhythms that it overwhelms the senses like a sea swelling with such intensity that it appears impossible to harness.

“Soy Chicano” tells the story extremely well. This could be the pivotal track on the record. Here voice artist, Pazcual Villaronga tells Rendón’s story. As the sensuously slow danzon unfolds Pazcual narrates the rich cultural genealogy of the “chicano,” a cultural collision of Mayan, Aztec, African and European. As the story mesmerizes the music continues to wind and twist with the resonant ringing of the vibes as the percussion changes ever so subtly. This is pure genius on the part of Rendón, an alumnus of Mongo Santamaria and the New Xavier Cugat. There is cumbia, bomba and more forms that may be alive today. Perhaps the most spectacular track of the record is the raw, traditional Yoruba worship drumming on the celebration of the Santeria ritual, “Batá…” where Roman Diaz, Diego Lopez and Rendón share credits on the three original sacred batá drums – the “Iyá,” “Itótele” and the “Okónkolo”. This kind of drumming may never be heard on record, unless it was a street senteria in Santiago de Cuba, perhaps. And there is also the apocalyptic, “In The Pocket,” another masterful rhythmic journey through rumba, baila, and more…

But there is also the element of virtuoso showcasing of music that came to be called “jazz.” In its entire African American splendor. This is Rendón’s memorable version of Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue” a truly hypnotic rendition that continues to echo in the mind’s mind, long after the last notes of the song have faded into the past. In the spectacular bleeng…blingablingg…of the vibes and the runntrunatrunn of batá and timbales, the whole of the African American Diaspora cones to life. Of course there is much more to recommend this percussion project automatically. And it is all very beckoning. Suffice it to say that this is a record of immense importance. Few Latin musical projects – outside of Brazil, barring the ones of Chano Dominguez of Spain – can lay claim to such unbridled originality as Victor Rendón’s Fiesta Percusiva.

Track Listing: Mozambique; Bomba En Nueva York; Afro Blue; Juego De Quijadas; Fiesta Percusiva; Soy Chicano; Funky Cumbia; Batá: Oru Seco Para Eleguá, Ogun, Ochosi; La Llorona; In The Pocket; Por La Mañana; Palmadas Para Aztlan.

Personnel: Victor Rendón with various guest percussionists: Anibal “Tito” Rivera; Louis Bauzo; Tom Mattioli; Allan Molnar; Yumi Suehiro; Yasuyo Kimura; Henry Brun; Roman Díaz; Diego Lopez; Guillermo “Memo” Acevedo; Ruben Rosa; and other instrumentalists: William Paul Rodríguez: piano, coro; Carlos Velazquez: bass; Andrea Brachfeld: flute; Ariel de la Portilla: Bass; John Díaz: coro; Awilda Santiago: coro; Pazcual Villaronga: voz; Joe Manozzi: keyboard; Charles Alletto: guitar; Al Acosta: clarinet; Pablo Mayor: vocal sounds, piano, organ; Mario Rodríguez: bass.

Victor Rendón on the web: www.victorrendon.com

Review written by: Raul da Gama

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