Believe, the first cut here, is the perfect intro to Alex Garcia's mind and manners: very eccentric and creative without cease while quite fidelitous to fundaments and form. The guy's a percussionist at heart, even plays his drum kit as though it were another of his airier accessories, and you'll hear tons of both in Believe…but also throughout the CD, often reminding this reviewer of Airto Moreira. Garcia's not an accompanist nor is his wont a matter of rhythm sectioning but rather a full participation in co-lead work. Yeah, Ole Mathison plays a striking soprano sax and Mike Eckroth's keys are very entrancing, but Garcia matches 'em step for step, not a measure of the entire repertoire escaping his highly judicious, complexly imaginative, and ceaselessly novel applications.
There's nothing heavy about Garcia's music, but that doesn't stop a cavalcade of variations and permutations from nailing the ear. He manages a Garden of Eden of jungley Nature ever finding new ways to express itself. And if you think I forgot the last member of the quartet, then catch bassist Ariel de la Portilla's hyper-nimble intro to Mestizaje. It's in that song, too, that you'll know Mathisen is a combination of Doldinger and McCandless, two of my all-time faves. This, then, makes Eckroth's Zawinulesque keyboards all the more complementary, more vivid, shimmering and bursting with élan, the two oft goading one another to new heights.
So perhaps Weather Report meeting latterday Oregon with side dishes of Spyrogyra and Braziliana bands spiced by just a touch of Brand X (the first three LPs) would best describe this release. Seeing the ensemble in performance must be an experience and a half. The Playboy Jazz Fest would do well to perk its ears up and induct Garcia & Co., bringing much needed top drawer vitality to a slate that's been just barely on the right side of moribund for decades. I'd love to watch the audience's reaction, torn between wanting to get up and dance but also sit tight and listen hard. No doubt about it: it isn't Alex Garcia's brilliant drumming/percussionistics nor his band's pristine work nor even the gent's ultra-inventive composing and arranging but far more that overachieving brain relentlessly refusing to settle for anything less than perfection and pure aesthetics that make this CD a wonder. We're looking at one of the near future's benchmarks on the instrument.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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