Luis Garay, Wilbur Wood, Leon Eynatyan, Miguel Alfaro, drums, marimba, Argentinian drums, Afro-Latin percussion, etc.
This is an adventurous and highly enjoyable trip around the world of Afro-Latin percussion through the eyes, ears and hands of multi-instrumentalist Luis Garay. Perhaps most notable about Sacumba is Garay's fashioning a cohesive and satisfying musical ensemble from a unit of four players, playing nothing other than percussion instruments. It's a tribute to his leadership and artistry that his own individual virtuosity was de-emphasized in favor of the ensemble sound itself, and that the arrangements manage to sustain interest throughout. Even those not fanatical about drums and percussion will find something fresh and enjoyable here.
A native of Cordoba, Argentina, where he was highly accomplished both as a performer and an educator in symphonic, Latin and other musical fields, Garay has continued his successes since emigration to the U.S. Now based in Washington, D.C., Garay brings a special focus and orientation to percussion, and to "Afro-Latin" music. There is an exposure to Argentinian instruments and approaches (as distinct both from non-South American ones, and from those of neighboring Brazil) which is different from what might be heard from many or most such ensembles. Not to worry, as Garay also is quite adept and knowledgable regarding the Brazilian aspects too, so he is able to bring an original fusion of elements together to convey what he calls "the passion and inspiration of the drum."
A particular favorite of mine is tuned percussion instruments such as the marimba, a wooden keyboard played with mallets, and this instrument is used evocatively in a number of settings. It conveys an Asian flavor on "Afro-Chin," and just as effectively brings Mexico and Central America to my mind on "Marimba Azucar."
This release is one well worth seeking out, both for percussion lovers interested in a new twist or two, and for anyone else open to something crisp and tastefully different. Neither bombastic nor monotonous, Sacumba provides us a compelling introduction both to a noteworthy artist in Afro-Latin music, and also to the vitalily of percussion ensembles themselves.
by Eric Golub
Jazz Now Interactive June 2004 Vol 14 No. 2 - Table of Contents
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