May 23, 2024

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CD review: Josean Jacobo & Tumbao – Cimarrón 2019: Video, CD cover

The frequency and intensity of Afro-centric music being created and released across the African Diaspora born and bred among the erstwhile Spanish colonies within the Latin American realm is almost all pervasive today.

It’s almost as if the cultural pressure cooker of the region has burst open and those who have shared this heritage among themselves – some, almost in secret – are now ready to share their rich art and culture with the world. If only the world will really listen.

Fortunately “listening” is not something you will have a hard time doing to the musical voice of Josean Jacobo as he and his band Tumbao create their musical outpouring on this magnificent album, Cimarrón.

Not surprisingly the disc is an exploding kettle the combustion of which is largely centred on music that was traditionally shared among the African-Dominican population. Being in one of the most volatile of the erstwhile Spanish colonies, where revolt and civil war was almost the order of the day until fairly recently, this music has a kinetics to it that is unlike anything else in the region. The music is rooted in a melding of the beating of African drums that seem to announce danger and war as well as celebrate the joie d’vivre of the African-Dominican Diaspora who escaped into the low-lying hills around the capital of the country to escape colonial persecution and celebrate their freedom with the ritual beating of African drums.

Mr Jacobo has transmitted this tumbling percussive groove to the rippling arpeggios and glimmering runs that he plays on his piano and this can be heard throughout his performance as he communicates the dark and joyfully light aspects of Dominican music. Accompanied by a battery of percussion instruments and a drum-set that is almost certainly comprised of more traditional drums than the ones invented in other versions of the drum-set played by jazz musicians in the US, Mr Jacobo melds the powerfully-struck chords of his bass-line melodies into the frontline melodic content of these ten songs. The drummers are enormously supportive and as a result Mr Jacobo’s music is played with a searing intensity and technical finesse that gives new meaning to the term “percussive power”. The echoes of this may be heard in the glad thunder of the Dominican tambora.

Not only do we get a genuine view of the vivid communities that kept the African traditions alive under circumstances of great distress, but we are also seduced by the simple and unadulterated joy and exuberance with which this music and the traditions were used to celebrate life. Although songs such as “A Pesar de Todo” and “Anaísa Pyé” are sure the most astonishing works on this disc, it is John Coltrane’s elemental dirge, “Lonnie’s Lament” that takes the breath away as it captures the African way of celebrating the joyful homecoming of the soul and which – although it should no longer come as a surprise – is further proof that the continuum of the African Way was and is celebrated in almost the same way from New Orleans to the Dominican and even further afield.

Track list – 1: A Pesar de Todo; 2: Mind Reset; 3: Aunque Me Cueste la Vida; 4: Más; 5: Interludio Guloya; 6: El Maniel; 7: Lonnie’s Lament; 8: Anaísa Pyé; 9: San Antonio; 10: Compadre Juan (Revisited)

Personnel – Josean Jacobo: piano and vocals (6, 8); Yasser Tejada: vocals (6, 8); Jonathan Suazo: alto saxophone (2, 4, 6, 8); Rafael Suncar: tenor saxophone (2, 4, 6, 8); Daroll Méndez: bass and vocals (6, 8); Mois Silfa:percussion; Otoniel Nicolás: drums and güira(8, 9)

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