. issue XIX : vi .
Crate-diggers like Will (Quantic) Holland (The Original Sound Of Cumbia) have introduced today’s listeners to porro, the glorious Colombian big-band cumbia sound of the 1940’s and beyond. Here’s a band that’s both inspired by that era and yet utterly contemporary. Colombian native Roberto Lopez leads this Montreal-based octet from the guitarists’ chair. They take on three compositions by the most famous porro bandleader, Lucho Bermudez (“Fiesta de Negritos” is my favorite of the three) along with two other covers and five Lopez originals. Each track here is a delight – the band locks into and swings the Colombian rhythms (try “En mi Corazón” and “San Pelayo,” Lopez’ porro and champeta originals), the arrangements are unique and really showcase the whole ensemble (“El Pescador” is a midtempo modern-jazz take on cumbia, “Tres Clarinetes” gives fandango an almost Dixieland/second-line feel), and the soloing is pithy and melodic throughout. This combo hearkens back to an era when jazz bands (in Colombia, America or wherever) played for dancers and listeners at the same time. You can file this one under jazz or world music, but just don’t miss it – it’s one of the best things I’ve heard all year.