Featured Album *****
Any recording by the inimitable César Orozco & Kamarata Jazz would be one to look forward to, but his 2020 release Rooted Forward is one that is enormously attractive for a number of reasons. The compositions and arrangements are particularly ambitious. They feature not only some of the finest young musicians in the world [who also happen to be fellow-Venezuelan] such as percussionists Fran Vielma, Diego “El Negro” Alvarez, Pablo Bencid, and from the renowned C4 Trio: the great Venezuelan cuatro master Jorge Glem and electric bassist Rodner Padilla [who co-produces this masterpiece]. The brilliant saxophonists Antonio Orta and Troy Roberts are also among the cast of musicians. Such an august assembly naturally requires special attention to production values and in that regard, both Mr Orozco and Mr Padilla have given it their all and then some.
For the record, Mr Orozco has always impressed not only with his expert grasp of music’s historical continuum, but how he has shaped his own sense of history within that continuum. The pianist has shown himself to be a lightning rod that attracts the fiery rhythms of Venezuelan music which have also – in his wonderful music – ignited his wild yen for electrifying improvisation. He is, of course possessed of a flawless technique and this has enabled him to do things few pianists can. A remarkable example of Mr Orozco’s breathtaking compositional ability is “Tierra Valiente” a slyly-inflected joropo in which he carves up the keyboard leaping forth with almost insolently athletic glissandos. Mr Orozco also pays lusty tribute to Afro-Caribbean music in general with a incendiary rumba/guagancó “Volao Rumba” in which Mr Bencid is particularly explosive.
Throughout we are regaled by the thrillingly orchestrated music, highly polished performances, with each song featuring high-spirited soloing – from the fluid virtuosity of Jorge Glem on the Venezuelan cuatro to the overwhelming intensity and fire of the percussionists Fran Vielma and Diego “El Negro” Alvarez, and of drummer Pablo Bencid, who together with the oomph and gravitas of Rodner Padilla and Gabriel Vivas’ basses, add a rhythmic muscularity. But all is not brimstone and fire; there is also much delicacy and elegance – especially in the gorgeous rendition of Ibrahim Bracho’s “Sueño Y Anhelo” adapted from a Venezuelan traditional song with the seemingly interminable lilt of Venezuela’s gaita-aguinaldo form; a song that is raised to the rarefied realm by the celestial voice of Natasha Bravo. While the high and lonesome voice of Marcial Istúriz graces Orozco’s beautiful work “Como Dice Danilo”. Soli are judiciously distributed among the constellation of virtuoso instrumentalists – from Mr Glem to Jazz voices of Troy Roberts and Alex Norris.
Always front and centre though is the breathtaking pianism of César Orozco who illuminates his compositions not only with almost inhuman virtuosity, but with incomparable touch. Often when he plays his instrument he makes everything sound simple, yet each note feels as if it is a separate pebble gently dropped into a pool, from there to send out infectious ripples that seem to multiply – not surprisingly – when they attract the ingenuity of Mr Glem’s, Mr Vielma’s, Mr Alvarez and Mr Bencid’s own respective virtuosity. In sum, these are works with which Mr Orozco acquits himself with uncommon distinction, tirelessly seeking out the restlessly changing colours and textures of – as he puts it Venezuelan “Kamarata Jazz” with the help of which [or whom] he delivers his ultimate coup de grâce on Rooted Forward.
Track list – 1: Heavy Wave; 2: Como Dice Danilo; 3: Chacha Para Purri; 4: Rooted Forward; 5: Tierra Valiente; 6: Spiral City; 7: Volao Rumba; 8: Sueño y Anhelo; 9: Con Mi Tambor
Personnel – César Orozco: piano, compositions, arrangements, lead vocal  and backing vocals; Rodner Padilla: electric bass [1 – 4, 6, 8, 9 solo on 3]; Jorge Glem: Venezuelan cuatro [soli on 1, 8]; Gabriel Vivas: contrabass [5, 7]; Pablo Bencid: drum set [2, 4 – 7, 9 solo on 7]; Diego “El Negro” Alvarez: batcusión [1, 3], cajón [4, 8] and Afro-Venezuelan drums – cumaco, clarín & laures – [9 and soli on 1, 4]; Fran Vielma: congas [2, 3, 5], guiro [2, 3] and Afro-Venezuelan drums – clarín and laures – [9 and soli on 2, 9]; Roberto Moreno: congas, quinto, chekeré, claves and catá ; Troy Roberts: tenor saxophone [soli on 4, 6, 9] and soprano saxophone ; Antonio Luis Orta: tenor saxophone [1, 9], alto saxophones [1, 7, 9] and soprano saxophone  and solo on 4; Tyler Mire: 1st trumpet [1, 9]; Alex Norris: 2nd trumpet [1, 9 and solo on 1]; Luke Brimhall: trombone [1, 9]; Natasha Bravo: lead vocal ; Marcial Istúriz: lead vocal ; Zamira Briceño: backing vocals [2, 9]; David Alastre: backing vocals [2, 9]
Released – 2020
Label – Independent
Runtime – 54:44
César Orozco & Kamarata Jazz: No Limits for Tumbao
On this album César Orozco looks closer to the drama, the wit, variation and endless elegance of…