Caldera ‘Caldera’/’Sky Islands’ (BBR) 3/5

Latin-fusion outfit Caldera are are a remnant of the 1970s and jazz-fusion fans who like their jazz on the smoother side will appreciate this generously timed pairing of albums which were the group’s first two. Caldera were the brainchild of Costa Rican-born guitarist Jorge Strunz and after he eventually made his way to the States, where he became influenced by first flamenco and then rock and jazz, falling under the influence of John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra and Chick Corea’s Return to Forever. The group are a multinational band with a strong Latin presence with Argentina, Brazil, Cuba and from the States, California and Florida, all represented, but it is important to stress that they do not sound anything like the Chicano (Mexican-American) Latin-fusion acts that took a leaf out of Santana’s book and that had a harder Latin edge to them. The first album, produced by ex-Crusaders trombonist Wayne Henderson, is the more disparate of the two insufficiently focussed, but does contain the meatier material while the second is unquestionably more polished and concise, yet at times is a little too clean for its own good. The former, released in 197,6 features at least two interesting numbers in ‘Exaltation’, a Latin-fusion burner which incorporates subtle Brazilian percussion while ‘El Juguete’ is probably the strongest album cut and includes some lovely flute. The second album, which dates from 1977, was jointly produced by Strunz and keyboardist Ed del Barrio with Earth, Wind and Fire’s Larry Dunn helping out and performing on synthesizer with Black Jazz drummer Chester Thompson featuring on drums on the track ‘Pegasus’ while Afro-Cuban jazz percussionists Ray Armando and Steve Berrios are included throughout. Vocalist Dianne Reeves made her recording debut on this album and ‘Ancient source’ is a laid back soulful tune that has long been a favourite among fusion fans. The singer’s wordless vocals grace the title track which is probably the most compelling of the numbers and equally the one that most bears the hallmark of Earth.Wind and Fire. If the Latin component is not firing on all cylinders, then the funk-infused bassline of ‘Pegasus’ with flute will excite and there is some pan-American folk grooves on ‘Carnavalito’ Overall excellent value for money for fans of jazz-fusion and terrifically informative biographical notes which provide useful historical context. The group would record two further albums in 1978 (‘Time’) and 1979 (‘Dreamer’). Tim Stenhouse

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