Afromantra: Alignment (2003)
This New York City-based combo is a self-proclaimed new entry in the Latin jazz marketplace in the Big Apple, "mixing post bop with Afro-Cuban rhythms." After hearing this group's efforts, I think that it would be more at home at The Knitting Factory playing avant-garde jazz than at a Latin/world showcase like S.O.B.'s. Led by Chilean-Cuban drummer Alex Garcia, Afromantra shows that it can play competent Latin jazz but demonstrates a tendency to take it outside on more than a few occasions.
Garcia contributed half of the ten tracks on Alignment. On the appropriately named "Take Out," Schlomi Cohen begins with a frenetic tenor sax solo that tries to channel late period Coltrane, while Guy David redeems things with a punchy trumpet solo. The two then meet in full cry on this eight minute excursion. "Eastern Spice" is a similar experience with outside statements from both David and Cohen. Fain & Webster's "Secret Love" starts off as a bolero but quickly gets sidetracked by piano and percussion interludes before returning to a montuno. "Transparencies" is performed as a samba on the melody line and could pass as bossa on a blindfold test with Lori Cotler's vocalese/scatting, but the tempo shifts to a Latin pulse for the piano/percussion bulk of the track.
There are typically many tempo changes during the course of this album, and Garcia may be confusing the technique as ground-breaking stuff that separates them from the pack. I would much rather hear at least a few numbers played through at a fixed pace. These guys have shown that they can play bebop and salsa – but not necessarily at the same time.
Track Listing: Afromantra(Prologue), Whenever the Need is Greatest, Blues Cha, Take Out, Transparencies, Secret Love, Eastern Spice, We Apologize for the Inconvenience, Afromantra(Finale).
Personnel: Alex Garcia, drums, percussion; Schlomi Cohen, tenor sax; Guy David, trumpet,flugelhorn; Lori Cotler, vocals; Enrique Haneine,piano; Toshi Someya,fretless bass; Aryam Vasquez,congas, percussion.
Record Label: Mambo Maniacs