Dominican Republic is not the first country that comes to mind when thinking about Jazz, even though one of the best jazz pianist in the last couple of decades is from this country, of course I am talking about Michel Camilo. And Jazz, a music style born out of fusion and already fused with almost any other Latin American music style, never has tried to fuse with Dominican folk music. With his album Beyond 145th Street Alex Diaz & his Merengue Jazz is trying the first serious attempt to do just that.
At first I was skeptic about the results and thought this fusion could only works if the merengue rhythms were diluted enough for the jazz melodies and intricate harmonies to shine through. But that is not what these guys did. The merengue rhythmic foundation (merengue is one of various folk rhythms out of Dominican Republic) is pretty accentuated all throughout the album. And the results are quite good. People will be pleasantly surprised when listening to the interesting and danceable versions of Jerome Kern “Yesterdays”, Lawrence and Altman “All or nothing at all” and Sam Jones “Unit Seven”.
Part of the success of this fusion can be attributed to the amazing musicians on this album. Ray Diaz on tambora and guira, Ivan Renta on sax, Nelson Jaime on trumpet, Diego Lopez on drums, Ruben Rodriguez on bass and Pedro Bermudez on piano. Bermudez also contributed two compositions to the release, “El Tigerazo del Bebop” and the album title “Beyond 145th Street”.
Tracks: Yesterdays, Unit Seven, Santo Domingo, Catarey Meren Jam, All or nothing at all, El Tigerazo del Bebop, Ginza Samba, El Comandante, Beyond 145th Street