Josean Jacobo and Tumbao ‘Cimarrón’ CD (E7 Studios) 4/5

‘Cimarrón’ the third album from Afro Dominican jazz pianist, composer and arranger Josean Jacobo provides an expansive canvas for the artist to lay down the varied hues of his palette. The Dominican Republic may be a comparatively small nation but thanks to its location and history many musical traditions coexist and merge to create a unique subgenre, Afro Dominican Jazz. The album’s title ‘Cimarrón’ refers to the escape of black slaves across the Caribbean before taking refuge in the mountainous regions of Hispaniola where African customs and musical traditions met those of the Spanish. Jacobo is something of a student of the folk music of his homeland and has woven traditional elements into a contemporary jazz sensibility. The recording reflects this with its rhythmical dynamism of rich and varied percussive sounds. Jacobo plays six original compositions as well as four reinterpreted songs. The band, Tumbao comprises Jonathan Suazo and Rafael Suncar saxes, Daroll Méndez bass, Otoneil Nicolás drums and Mois Silfa percussion.

‘A Pesar de Todo’ sets the pace of the record with a very funky piano riff, heavy in the lower register and feeling quite 1960s in origin. The sound softens with the introduction of the saxes and percussion, it reminded me of something like Duke Pearson from that period. The recording and mixing by Edward Moreta and Alberto Santamaria respectively is beautiful and has a tremendous warmth to it. My only complaint is the length of this track, at 2.20 it felt like it was over before I could blink.

I wouldn’t say the first piece was a false start by any stretch of the imagination but the title of track 2 ‘Mind Reset’ suggests Jacobo might think otherwise or at least wants to lead us in a different direction for the next five and a half minutes. In contrast to the earlier tune the piano is now producing a wave like sound, more ripples than breakers and quite calming. Drums and percussion come in playing off each other, the saxes combine with a striking precision before a change of pace with solo sax and bass.The saxes join forces again to complete the setup with a pleasingly abstract and angular finale. This track is also a single release.

‘Aunque me cueste la vida’ is Jacobo’s reinterpretation of a popular song previously sung by the likes of Celia Cruz and Alberto Beltrán. Clearly there’s much more of an old school vibe going on here, at least for the first half of the song before the pianist shifts into a more contemporary sound and plays out on a repeated phrase. I was hoping for a reprise of the old school tune to take it full circle but instead there is a more linear musical history on offer.

Slightly puzzling is the inclusion of ‘Interludio Guloya’ which returns to something of the dynamic groove of the first tune combined with a driving rhythm section but alas fades out with solo drums after just over a minute, I wanted a longer interlude that’s all!

‘Lonnie Lament’ feels like the exploration of a different territory altogether, the circular motif pleasing though it is could be from a different album. The band sound more like a trio here with the exclusion of both sax players. I did enjoy this piece but realized what I was missing when l got into the next track, ‘Anaisa Pye’. It’s a joyful return of percussion and saxes, a blend of latin rhythms fused with a jazz sound, something the sextet do profoundly well on this record.

Towards the close of the album ‘San Antonio’ could be said to sum up what the whole record is all about, namely the interplay between percussion and piano and it packs it neatly together in just over two minutes. A piano intro and cymbals sound like waves breaking on the shore followed by complex percussive arrangements augmented by the keyboard, it’s short and sweet but it does a lot.

This record is a treat for those who like their music infused with historic association but at the same time brimming with contemporary vitality and energy.

James Read