by Dee Dee McNeil, Musical Memoirs

JOSEAN JACOBO & TUMBAO – “CIMARRON” Afro Dominican Jazz

Josean Jacobo, piano/vocals/composer; Yasser Tejeda, vocals; Daroll Mendez, bass/vocals; Mois Silfa, percussion; Otoniel Nicolas, drums/guira; Rafael Suncar, tenor saxophone; Jonathan Suazo, alto saxophone.

The group, Tumbao, digs deeply into the history of Afro-Dominican jazz. You hear the exciting rhythms and the African influence in Josean Jacobo’s expressive arranging. Full of flare and freedom, Josean Jacobo sets up the groove on piano, playing a catchy bass line and Mois Silfa’s percussion, along with Otoniel Nicolas on drums. They establish a strong, Latin groove. That’s how we are introduced to this artist, who has composed six of the ten songs recorded and he has arranged all the songs on this, his sophomore album. Jacobo brings musical greetings from the Tumbao group’s native Dominican Republic. Also, the title of this CD, “Cimarron” is extracted from the word “Cimarronaje” that refers to black slaves who escaped from captivity, taking refuge in the nearby mountains of their Caribbean island and formed fugitive societies that embraced and protected their African culture and customs. Josean Jacobo and his Tumbao group believes that the melding of Spanish conquerors, with the African culture, blended to create the current, rich Dominican heritage. He proudly flags this concept on this musical exploration.

Since jazz is always exemplary of freedom, you clearly hear that improvisational inventiveness in this production. Jonathan Suazo, on alto saxophone, and Rafael Suncar on tenor sax, bring a straight-ahead feel on “Mind Reset,” the second song on this fiery fiesta of succulent music.

“El Maniel” is pushed forcefully by percussive brilliance and makes me want to dance. On the Coltrane composition, “Lonnie’s Lament” Josean Jacobo uses his piano to explore the melody and scale improvisational lucidity up and down the 88-keys. Nicolas offers a tenacious exploration of his trap drums atop the repeating groove of Jacobo’s piano chords. I was surprised that no horns were included when arranging this song.

The vocals added on “Anaisa Pye” (a traditional folk song of the Dominican Republic) add zest and African-like chants to introduce this piece of music. I would like to have heard more of that in this arrangement. Daroll Mendez strongly holds the rhythm in place with his solid bass line, sounding almost like cut-time beneath the double-time piano parts and the flurry of drums. Hailed as ‘The Ambassador of Afro-Dominican Jazz’, Josean Jacobo offers this project as a historic presentation of generational beauty. The group, Tumbao, shows through their music how the elements of mixing people and cultures can create a synthesis of artistic goodness, even under the questionable circumstances of slavery.

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