Gitana te Quiero is a good example of the transformation process. Camaron’s original was a 12-beat buleria, sung from the beginning with fractured passion over percussively strummed guitar and hand claps; the band on Rumba de La Isla turns it into a two-beat rumba, woven collectively between tumbadora and bata drums and cajon; as a singer, Martinez changes the mood completely, making it serene and centered until halfway through, when he starts improvising against a vocal chorus.
The album is produced by Fernando Trueba and Nat Chediak, the same team that helped put together Lagrimas Negras, the 2003 collaboration between the Cuban pianist Bebo Valdes and the Gitano singer Diego el Cigala, as well as other albums experimentally connecting the traditions of Cuban music, Spanish music and jazz. But they weren’t the first to impose a transcultural idea on traditional rumba; one of the greatest recording rumberos, Totico, was playing rumba-ized versions of Brazilian pop and doo-wop back in the late 1960s. And for decades, flamenco has been absorbing everything – Cuban music, Middle Eastern music, rock, dance music. This record may have an imposed concept, but it’s far from arbitrary, and the musicians transform the material to their own ends.
— BEN RATLIFF, NY Times News Service
The soundtrack of things to come, Jaleel Shaw, Changu
Jaleel Shaw has a warm, frank tone on alto saxophone, and an attraction to music of earthy enlightenment. He isn’t automatically drawn to lofty concept or structural convolution, which can make him seem old-fashioned relative to his peer group. (He just turned 35.) But the essential trait of Shaw’s music is a sense of balance: between the internal and the external, intellect and emotion, fealty and license. Listen close enough and you realize that he has considered his aesthetic from every angle.
His first two albums — Perspective, from 2004, and Optimism, from 2008 — tracked his shift from a post-bop foundation to a sleeker, more groove-centered style. (The pianist Robert Glasper and the guitarist Lage Lund, featured on both those albums, had a lot to do with this impression.) On his third effort, The Soundtrack of Things to Come, Shaw integrates those prior advances in a way that feels soulful and unlabored.
It registers clearly that he made the album with a working band, breaking in his new music before entering a studio. His quartet features the powerfully expressive drummer Johnathan Blake — another former Philadelphian, and his steadiest musical partner — as well as the bassist Boris Kozlov and the pianist Lawrence Fields. On a track like Leel’s Tune, which rides a shifting and often asymmetrical pulse, the rhythm section’s dynamic exchange is both bracing and matter-of-fact.