This album, the first by this two-year-old and regularly performing band, manages to capture the feel of a live performance. That feeling is difficult to describe. The album is very well recorded, but it crackles with spontaneity. The illusion of live performance is enhanced by the band’s conversational qualities. Each musician knows exactly what should be said, when it should be said and then it is said to satisfying effect.
ABATERÍA started life as a percussion ensemble playing world music and has been evolving ever since. The current line up functions as six vocalists (everybody sings), four percussionists, one bass, one piano, one organ, one flute, one guitar and one tres which allows for a very rich sound.
Jazz lost its position as America’s popular music when it ceased to be dance music and became concert music. ABATERÍA’S music definitely brings jazz back into the dance business. The band has been playing to crowds of dancers every Friday night for about a year. According to the band and the press their music has brought crowds of up to 300 repeat revelers to The Music Café in Columbia. These people come to dance.
Lead vocal duties are carried out by Melania Bruner, who was born in Costa Rica but who has lived in Missouri for almost three decades. Melania’s voice is a rare find, it is sexy, exotic, and seems to get even better with repeat listenings. Melania sings with a fluency which would lead you to believe she has never spoken any language other than Spanish. Ms. Bruner also plays flute and percussion: cow bell.
In the second track, "Dulce Amor" (bruner/shadwick) Melania’s voice drips with passion, but not melodrama. Her phrasing over the band’s rich rhythm is lush and romantic. The rest of the band’s vocal reply is completely authentic. Melania’s flute playing on this cut demonstrates expressive ability on this instrument. Not being a Spanish speaker I can’t address the linguistic quality of the lyrics that Ms. Bruner writes, but the sound of those lyrics most definitely are perfect with this music.
The Band is energized by founding member Johnny Finn, who has made several trips to Cuba to study Afro- Cuban Music. Finn is a percussionist and plays the congas, chimbales, cowbells, woodblocks and a Brazilian bass drum called a surdo.
In addition to the vocal lead of Ms. Bruner, the percussion provided by Finn and drum set operator Nathan Miller, the band now includes pianist/organist Johnny Kidd; guitarist/Tres player Gregory Shadwick; and bassist Zach Mortice. Mr. Mortice, who came to this Latin music through jazz and funk, says that this music is fundamentally different from any of his previous playing.
Yet this is not a band that has simply learned how to play "Latin" style jazz; this is a Latin Jazz Band that plays with authenticity. This is all the more remarkable because they write most of their own music. There is no demonstrated tendency to lapse into pop, rock, funk or any other style that may have comprised the past experience or the environmental music to which the majority of the band was daily exposed.
The music on the album, with the exception of the first cut, OMA OMA OKE OKE which is listed as traditional, is all original; with each song attributed to one or the other of the band members. Johnny Kidd and Guitarist Gregory Shadwick do most of the band’s composing with Melania Bruner writing most of the lyrics. Mr. Finn asserts that the music is all collaborative. On this CD Johnny Kidd composed Track 4 EL CAMELLO. Tracks 2 DULCE AMOR and 5 "THE SAD ORGAN" are Shadwick Bruner compositions and track 3 DESCARGA is a Shadwick solo. Track 6 on the album "Chequeo De Sonido," lists Abatería as the composer.
For the purchase price of $10.00 over the internet this is an investment that will generate very enjoyable returns.