Grupo Los Santos: Lo Que Somos Lo Que Sea (2008)
Grupo Los Santos is a New York-based group that successfully looks at Latin and Brazilian jazz from an American point of view. The result is a mixed sonic bag that allows influences from funk and East Coast jazz into the music without compromising the general sound and feel.
At their CD release concert at New York's The Jazz Standard in January, 2008, they opened with "Boogie Down Broder," a tune by saxophonist Paul Carlon dedicated to the late salsa legend Juan Pablo Torres, who passed away in 2005. "Boogie is arguably the "hardest" track (both live and on disc) from a jazz point of view; both Carlon and guitarist Pete Smith improvising at the same time with the rhythm section keeping a firm beat behind them. Smith, on a 9-string acoustic instrument that serves as both guitar and bass, is clearly inspired both by Baden Powell and Charlie Byrd, while Carlon seems to channel Joe Henderson.
One of the highlights of the show was the album's opening track, "Rumba in the Bronx," a composition by drummer William "Beaver Bausch that features the tap talents of Max Pollak. On disc, Pollak's presence is only noticed during part of the tune, but his footwork on the track is nevertheless brilliant. Live, he stole the show by walking on stage singing an Afro-inspired chant and then performing solo. The group joined him four minutes later, playing a low-key but groovy rendition of the tune, keeping the dynamics low so as to hear Pollak better.
One of the most intriguing tracks on the disc is "Absurdities & Atrocities," an instrumental Bausch composition that stands out because of its Middle Eastern feel; live the composer added a vocal narration he called "The Red State Remix."
Though Grupo Los Santos' concept is not exactly original (many Americans have adapted Latin jazz to their own needs), they are energetic and committedwhen they play a choro like "A Dança dos Santos," it doesn't sound like they are trying to copy the genre; instead the various styles the group brings together makes for a refreshing listening experience.
Track Listing: Rumba in The Bronx; A Danca dos Santos; Happified: Clave 66; Absurdities & Atrocities; Manna; Guajira Santa; Boogie Down Broder; Toreja Kulo; Pedrito La Vaca.
Personnel: Paul Carlon: tenor saxophone; Pete Smith: electric and 9-string guitars; David Ambrosio: acoustic bass; William "Beaver" Bausch: drum set; Max Pollak: tap dance/rumbatap.
Record Label: Deep Tone Records