César Orozco and Kamarata Jazz’s music is hard to pin down. There’s a little of everything in the 10 extensive tracks: Cuban, Venezuelan, and jazz music all rolled into one unique sound with a pulse.
Who is this guy? Orozco’s more than another jazz piano player looking for an in with the mainstream music company. He’s a deeply imaginative, crazy brilliant fusion artist who wields his instrument with equal flair in three of the toughest music styles to conquer. Born to both a Cuban and Venezuelan heritage, Orozco arrived in the States only three short years ago on a full tuition assistantship from the John Hopkins University’s Peabody Institute, so he could graduate with a jazz piano major. Oh, he conducts and plays violin too, compliments of Havana’s National School of Arts.
Multi-Grammy-winning saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera once said of Orozco: “Cesar Orozco manages to make the best combination between Cuban, jazz and Venezuelan music I ever heard.” That’s exactly what you hear on this new vocal and instrumental mix, No Limits For Tumbao, out since August 1, 2015.
Orozco’s compositions were so promising at one point that DownBeat recognized him in 2014 with a student music award for Orozcojam out in 2010 with Kamarata Jazz.
No Limits For Tumbao is Orozco and Kamarata Jazz’s third major album. Orozco wrote most of the songs. He included a few from the two countries he came from, “Galeron,” based on Venezuelan folklore and “Para Ti Nengon (Nengón),” Cuban folk. He also co-produced the album with Kamarata Jazz bassist Rodner Padilla.
Other musicians in on the fun: drummer Euro Zambrano, percussionist Francisco Vielma, and the nine guest stars, including D’Rivera, vocalist/percussionist Pedrito Martinez, and saxophonist Yosvanny Terry.
No matter what these musicians play, and they play the gamut, Orozco makes sure they do it with style and swing.
“This album adds new ingredients to the mix of Venezuelan music, Cuban music, and jazz I’ve been doing for a number of years — for example, Changüí and Nengón, Cuban folkloric genres that both originated in the eastern part of the island,” Orozco explained in a release. “The first has a great rhythmic complexity, but a strong danceable spirit. The second could represent the clearest forerunner of Cuban Son. For me, Nengón also has personal significance since my father, musicologist Danilo Orozco, was the one who brought it to light for the very first time through his research in the early ‘80s, embodied in the album, Antología Integral del Son. On the Venezuelan side, although I have previously recorded Joropos, this is the first time I have composed one, which besides the jazz influence, has the characteristic beat and refrain of the eastern Venezuelan Joropo. You will also hear a Venezuelan Merengue with a Cuban Montuno, a funk style song adorned with Afro-Venezuelan drums, and a Cuban-flavored ballad, among other things. In the end, my goal is to transmit emotions through the music and show that there are absolutely ‘No Limits For Tumbao.’”
To get into the nitty-gritty of every little tweak and muster would be a lesson in futility. There is just too much going on. Orozco isn’t exaggerating, though. He reaches his lofty goal with every comprehensive song on the roster, filling every crevice with reimagined timing and culturally borrowed and influenced styles, until there is no Venezuelan or Cuban music, but just Orozco-inspired, global jazz with a pulse.
Others have split jazz into fusions. But Orozco takes his jazz fusion to a whole other level. He is the next Danilo Pérez for real, but always with a firm grasp of the endlessly fascinating, trippy groove.
Take “Jorozco (Joropo).” Orozco and his musicians trip through a Herbie Hancock electronic jazz rumble with a reverb bass-slapping Level 42 vibe on a nearly prog-rock floater. And that’s just in the first few minutes. All his.
Orozco incorporates diverse voices in “Para Ti Nengon” and “La Rumba Esta Buena” for an authentic cultural experience. A child leads the way in “Para Ti Nengon (Changui),” as the pianist follows, slowly becoming more ornate in his solo interpretation after laughing in delight. “La Rumba Esta Buena” brings in a Cuban party, one guest at a time until the entire song is a room full of revelers mouthing off to a contrarian percussive-piano beat.
Do not miss this band’s CD release concerts, live at Subrosa New York September 29, 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., and at the O’Callaghan’s Annapolis Hotel for the Joe Byrd Jazz Series. The concerts are a part of an upcoming tour.