On Lo Que Somos Lo Que Sea, Grupo los Santos continues to probe the rumba-, timba-, and son-influenced Cuban roots music the band s members are so enamored of. At the heart of their sound, Grupo los Santos is a jazz quartet. Rather than augment that instrumentation with more traditional instruments (e.g., hand percussion, tres), each member interprets and adapts his instrument to the tradition in question. Drummer William 'Beaver' Bausch has studied Afro-Cuban rhythms extensively and introduced his comrades to some of that music, including rumba and the batá music of Santería. Bassist Dave Ambrosio borrowed Beaver s batá drums and has gone on to become an accomplished batalero in his own right. Not surprisingly, his rhythmic command and vocabulary have transformed his approach to the bass. Pete Smith studied tres and piano montunos and applied them to his guitar, creating unique Cuban-jazz textures. His Brazilian studies, coupled with a custom-built 9-string classical guitar, give the group a dramatically distinctive tone. Saxophonist Paul Carlon's numerous visits to Brazil and Cuba allow him to float between both worlds, both as a saxophonist and a composer, while maintaining a direct link to the tenor jazz tradition of Coltrane, Gene Ammons, and Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis. Carlon displays his fascination with Brazil on A Dança dos Santos (Dance of the Saints) and Manna , while Bausch charts new territory for Grupo los Santos with two Flamenco-based compositions, Absurdities and Atrocities and Toreja Kulo . The drummer also displays his prowess in writing for the guitar on Rumba in the Bronx and the mind-blowing rumba-clave workout Pedrito la Vaca . Rumbatap pioneer Max Pollak engages the band on Lo Que Somos Lo Que Sea with his innovative artistry on Rumba in the Bronx and Toreja Kulo . The unofficial fifth Santo , Pollak has been deeply involved with the group s experiments in rhythm from the band s inception, and frequently performs on the group s live shows.
The only faith to which these four American musicians appear to devote themselves is the impassioned and serious investigation of traditional Cubann and Brazilian rhythms, in order to incorporate them into their own jazz-based compositions. These interpretive experiments have succeeded in creating a mix at times explosive and sizzling, like the Brazilian coastline or Afrocaribbean flavor. . . others exude melodies that produce that certain languid sensation which beckons us to more intimate places. --Diana Vargas, VIDAHOY (NY)
The entire group is at top peak performance, and their sound is flawless. Each song will be a favorite with different listeners. --Lee Prosser, JazzReview.com
Obfuscation isn t an issue when it comes to the catchy music of Grupo los Santos. From the bright hues of their sophemore disc s packaging to the resplendency of its rhythms and rapport, the four-piece Afro-Cuban influenced ensemble speaks and interacts in bold primary colors. Along with that collective directness comes an unexpected absence of bombast or obviousness, two traits prone to marring others that operate out of the blended idiom that is Latin jazz. Rather than take the path of least resistance and target audience hips and feet, the band opts to work out of a less predictable bag. The flavor of the dance floor is still palpable, but shaded with a challenging succession of metric and harmonic complexities that keep the players and potential listeners from slipping into autopilot. --Derek Taylor, Bagatellen.com