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The Afro-Caribbean Jazz Collective, Fiesta at Caroga Review

by March 5, 2024

The Afro-Caribbean Jazz Collective, Fiesta at Caroga Review

The-Afro-Caribbean-Jazz-Collective-CDIn the land of world music, where Latin sounds meet the many shades of jazz, Fiesta at Caroga by The Afro-Caribbean Jazz Collective is a six-song sonic odyssey that transcends the two genres to form an excellent auditory experience. This ensemble, spearheaded by Jose Guzman during his scholarly pursuits at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, manifests as a confluence of the profound traditions of Afro-Caribbean rhythms with the added expressions of modern jazz. Their craft invites listeners into a vibrant celebration of heritage and contemporary world music exploration.

Fiesta at Caroga is a meticulously crafted narrative; each track delves deep into the soul of salsa and its multifaceted expressions, from the vivacious “Descarga 2” to the introspective “Cariño.” Guzman, with his electric guitar, serves as the ensemble’s chordal heart, pulsating with life and color, enveloped by the rhythmic embrace of Busath’s congas, Massar’s timbales, and Shank’s percussion. These elements converge to form a dynamic foundation, over which the horn section, comprising Eric Devey, Brian Stark, and Ben Weisger, dances with fiery exuberance and delicate melancholy.

The opening track, “Descarga 2,” is an eruption of energy, a celebration encapsulated within the bounds of Afro-The-Afro-Caribbean-Jazz-Collective-2Caribbean salsa. The synergy between the percussive trio and Guzman’s chordal mastery creates a rich sonic landscape, over which the horns lay their spirited melodies. Like the album itself, this track is a vibrant testament to the collective’s ability to blend tradition with innovation, creating a nostalgic and refreshingly new sound.

In “Xipirona Cha Cha,” we find a lighter, more whimsical character, where Guzman’s chordal play and Weisger’s trombone solo paint a picture of joyous abandon, emblematic of the cha-cha’s playful nature. The piece’s airy tempo and rhythmic sophistication invite listeners to sway, getting lost in the music’s embrace.

“El Cañaveral” and “El Volcan” delve deeper into the thematic and emotional core of the album. With its bembe groove and slow melodic build, the former evokes the mystical allure of sugar cane fields at dawn, a tribute to the land’s natural beauty and toil. The latter, a mid-tempo salsa piece, simmers sensually, its melody a siren call to the dance floor, showcasing Stark and Davey’s masterful solo performances.

The album’s penultimate track, “Cariño,” is a poignant exploration of sorrow and joy. Here, the Caroga Arts String Orchestra adds a new dimension to the ensemble, their lush textures cradling Davey’s trumpet melodies in a tender embrace. This track evokes the transformative power of music to find light in darkness and joy in sorrow.

Finally, “Baile Bailekita” is a fervent ode to the joy of dance, a tribute that encapsulates the album’s essence—a celebration of life’s vibrancy, community, and the unyielding spirit of Afro-Caribbean culture. This track, energized by the ensemble’s rhythmic expertise and Guzman’s guitar solo, serves as a fitting finale, leaving listeners with a sense of exhilaration and a deep appreciation for the artistry of dance.

In the broader tapestry of the Afro-Caribbean Jazz Collective’s discography and the realms of jazz and Afro-Caribbean music, Fiesta at Caroga stands as a beacon of artistic integrity and innovation. The album vividly illustrates the ensemble’s unparalleled ability to fuse traditional rhythms with jazz’s improvisational spirit, creating a sound that is at once familiar and groundbreaking.

The-Afro-Caribbean-Jazz-Collective-1As the final notes fade, Fiesta at Caroga leaves us with a sense of having journeyed through the musical exploration of Afro-Caribbean sounds, giving us a celebration of life in the form of music and a testament to the enduring power of music to connect to heal and to inspire.


The Afro-Caribbean Jazz Collective


Fiesta at Caroga


Jgb Music

Release Date

May 5, 2023

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