Mezcla has been called Cuba’s premier Fusion Band and in fact their name means "Mixture". They first gained notoriety when Carlos Santana joined the fight with members of congress to gain their visas for their first US tour claiming Mezcla was his favorite Cuban band. The leader and guitarist Pablo Menendez was born in San Francisco and immigrated to Cuba in the 60’s executing a strange twist on Cuban Cross-Culturalism. He has been intimately involved with the Cuban Jazz scene having been a member of Grupo Experimentacion Sonora and Sonido Contemporaneo of which Gonzalo Rubalcaba is also an alumnus.
"Akimbo’ is their first pure Latin Jazz venture recorded live at La Zorra and El Cuervo in Havana. It features strong originals by band members as well as a Danzon version of Charlie Parker’s "Donna Lee", and a incendiary up-tempo rendition of "Mambo Infuenciado" composed by Irakere Pianist - Chucho Valdez. There is also an arrangement by Pablo Menendez of a Danzon by the legendary Cuban bassist "Cachao" called "Buena Vista Social Club" which was also the song responsible for the name of the now world famous Cuban musical project.
Tenor Saxophonist Orlando Sanchez composes 3 of the originals including one dedicated to Woody Shaw who visited the island in the 70’s. His robust sound stands out with Coltranesque pyrotechnics and use of overtones, but his ballad work recalls the breathiness of Ben Webster. Guitarist Pablo Menendez contributes "Hijos de La Mezcla" a challenging work in 12/8 time. His guitar sound echoes his debt to rock and fusion with his use of reverb, fuzz and effects but his writing, solos and arranging show his Jazz chops clearly.
Bassist Jose Hermida has a fat distinctive sound with ringing tones and is a featured soloist with a lot to say. There is strong trumpet work by Mayquel Gonzalez and Roberto Garcia who also performs on Flugelhorn. Octavio Rodriguez on Congas, Bata and drums supplies the many percussive colors. Enrique Pia also does a guest shot on drums. Drummer David Pimienta composes the title cut "Akimbo" which is a standout cut with the composer singing in Kimbundu, a Bantu language from the Angola/Congo region of Africa. This powerful performance completes the journey from San Francisco Rock, to the traditional music of Cuba, through New York Jazz (Fort Apache style), and finally home to Mother Africa.
All fusion projects work ultimately when each of the elements are expressed with love and respect so that the final result is a true synthesis . In this, Mezcla with it’s is totally successful and gives the indication that the journey has only just begun.