Socrates Garcia delivers his writing brilliance with an incredibly talented 20+-member Latin Jazz Orchestra in this powerful recording rooted in his Dominican heritage and covered with the aesthetics of jazz! Back Home is, simultaneously, a point of arrival and departure — arriving to a place where Garcia could combine his heritage with the aesthetics of jazz; and departing towards a promising future of this symbiotic relationship.
Vantage Point • Alle el Conde a las 8:00 • Celebration of the Butterflies • Back Home • Dominican Suite for Jazz Orchestra (Homage to Tavito • Bachata for Two • From Across the Street)
SOCRATES GARCIA LATIN JAZZ ORCHESTRA/Back Home: A Dominican cat now teaching in Colorado rounds up a slew of great soloists to join forces under the penumbra of his big band for a trip back to the mother land to lay down an easy going but high energy mash up of Afro-Caribe jazz/dance music that’ll get you whether you like to get up and shake it or sit and listen. Snazzy is what comes to mind here. With never a dull moment to harsh your vibe, this is going to take you to the groovy Latin jazz club in your mind where gringos are always welcome. Check it out.
“Connections with Latin music go back to the earliest years of jazz (Jelly Roll Morton’s ‛Latin tinge’ comes readily to mind) and there have long been big band links. Among these have been Frank Grillo, Maria Bauza, Tito Puente and Dizzy Gillespie. A significant figure today is Socrates Garcia, who was born in the Dominican Republic, which is where he first played guitar but was diverted into an engineering career. Fortunately, that did not last and he decided that music was to be his life. While playing rock and pop, he also studied extensively in America, including spells at the Grove School, Luther College, and universities in Tennessee and Colorado. These studies ranged widely, incorporating classical music but also generating an interest in big band jazz. On this album, Socrates presents his Latin Jazz Orchestra playing his own compositions, which includes his Dominican Suite. The musicians here come from America (recorded at University of Northern Carolina where Socrates is Director of Music Technology) and from the Dominican Republic (recorded at MIDILAB studies, where he had worked as an engineer). All the music on this fine set is exhilarating and played with verve by the band ably demonstrating that big band Latin jazz is alive and well.”
“Back Home (MAMA Records – 1050) by the SOCRATES GARCIA LATIN JAZZ ORCHESTRA, while flavored with the sounds and rhythms of Garcia’s native Dominican Republic, is more a straightforward modern big band album than a “Latin Jazz” album. Garcia teaches at the University of Northern Colorado. For this program of original selections by Garcia, he gathered a blend of UNC students, Colorado musicians and players from the Dominican Republic to form a tight-knit unit that brings out the joy in his charts. The horns and rhythm section were recorded at UNC, while the percussion section and vocals were recorded in the Dominican Republic. The music is nicely appealing, blending the Dominican bachata and merengue styles with modern jazz conceptions to create a program that should appeal to both Latin Jazz enthusiasts and those who dig big band music. Back Home should make you feel comfortable no matter where home is. (www.mamajazz.com)”
Back Home, the debut recording by composer / arranger / musicologist Socrates Garcia’s Latin Jazz Orchestra, combines the best of two worlds: ardent Latin jazz that never forswears its roots, and emphatic American-designed big-band swing that provides a solid framework for Garcia’s picturesque Latin / American excursions. Garcia, who was born in the Dominican Republic, is director of Music Technology at the University of Northern Colorado, and Back Home, it seems, represents more a state of mind than any physical locale, even though there are brief stops at “Calle el Conde” and “From Across the Street” in Garcia’s native land, the last a part of the three-movement “Dominican Suite for Jazz Orchestra.”
Garcia’s compositions (he wrote and arranged every number on the album) are lively and effervescent, easily bridging whatever gap, real or imagined, that may exist between American jazz and the music of his homeland. While Latin rhythms predominate, the more well-known samba, bossa and tango are supplanted by Dominican cadences such as the bachata and merengue. As for Garcia’s sidemen, most of whom call Colorado home, their mastery of his blueprint is such that they might easily be misread as emigres from Garcia’s birthplace. An exception is the all-Dominican rhythm section, comprised of pianist Manuel Tejada, bassist Pengbian Sang and drummer Helen De La Rosa (with an assist from percussionists Felix “Abuelo” Garcia, Rafael Almengod, Josue Reynoso and Otoniel Nicolas). Guitarist Steve Kovalchek is added on “Celebration of the Butterflies,” and Garcia plays guitar on “Back Home.”
The album’s centerpiece and inspiration is the colorful “Dominican Suite,” which opens with a sharply drawn “Tribute to Tavito” (identified by Garcia as saxophonist Tavito Vasquez, known as “the Charlie Parker of the Caribbean”). As SuperSax did for Parker, Garcia has embedded one of Vasquez’s solos as part of the composition. The second movement, “Bachata for Two,” akin to a Latin waltz, was written for Garcia’s wife, Wanda, while the third, “From Across the Street,” recalls folk music—called Palos or Atabales—performed by a woman who lived across the street from Garcia’s home in the Dominican Republic and is the only track on the album with vocals (by a suitably well-spoken quartet). The opening number, “Vantage Point,” is a bracing merengue whose charming melody and addictive rhythms give way to canny solos by Tejada and baritone saxophonist Ryan Middagh. The vivacious “Calle el Conde a Las 8:00,” whose bright solos are by soprano Wil Swindler and trumpeter Jordan Skomal, precedes the earnest “Celebration of the Butterflies,” Garcia’s homage to the three Mirabel sisters who were assassinated by dictator Rafael Trujillo’s government for their opposition to his regime. Tenor Kenyon Brenner is showcased on “Butterflies,” as he is on “Back Home.” Another splendid soloist, trumpeter Brad Goode, is front and center on “Bachata for Two” and shares the spotlight with Tejada on “Homage to Tavito.”
Not only is Back Home a near-perfect blend of Dominican and American music, it stands tall on its own as a superlative example of big-band jazz at its best. Well done, Socrates.
Track Listing: Vantage Point; Calle el Conde a Las 8:00; Celebration of the Butterflies; Back Home; Dominican Jazz Suite for Orchestra (Homage to Tavito / Bachata for Two / From Across the Street).
Personnel: Socrates Garcia: composer, arranger, conductor, guitar (4); Brad Goode: trumpet, flugelhorn; Dave Rajewski: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jordan Skomal: trumpet, flugelhorn; Miles Roth: trumpet, flugelhorn; Wil Swindler: alto, soprano sax, flute; Briana Harris: alto sax, flute; Kenyon Brenner: tenor sax, flute, clarinet; Joel Harris: tenor sax, clarinet; Ryan Middagh: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Brielle Frost: flute; Joe Chisholm: trombone; Frank Cook: trombone; Jonathan Zimmy: trombone; Guillermo Rivera: trombone; Gary Mayne: bass trombone; Manuel Tejada: piano; Steve Kovalchek: guitar (3); Pengbian Sang: bass; Helen De Rosa: drums; Felix “Abuelo” Garcia: tambura, congas, atabales, vocal (7); Rafael Almengod: atabales, tambu, vocal (7); Josue Reynoso: guira; Otoniel Nicolas: timbal; Hovernys Garcia: vocal (7); Lia Nova: vocal (7).
“Socrates Garcia, composer/arranger/conductor/producer/guitar; Manuel Tejada, piano; Pengbian Sang, bass; Steve Kovalcheck, guitar; Helen De La Rosa, drums; Felix “Abuelo” Garcia, tambura, congas, atabales & vocals; Rafael Almengod, atabales, tambu; Josue Reynoso, guira; Otoniel Nicolas, timbales; Wil Swindler, alto, soprano, flute; Briana Harris, alto, flute; Kenyon Brenner, tenor, flute, clarinet; Brielle Frost, flute; Joel Harris, tenor, clarinet; Ryan Middagh, baritone, bass clarinet; Brad Goode, Dave Rajewski, Jordan Skomal, Miles Roth, Trumpets/flugalhorns; Joe Chisholm, Frank Cook, Jonathan Zimny, & Guillermo Rivera: Trombones; Gary Mayne, bass trombone; Hovernys Santana, Lia Nova & Rafael Almengod, vocals.
This recording is smart, well arranged and mixed to perfection. The percussion stands out as strong as the horn lines and draws me in from the very first few bars. All the music on this project is composed, arranged and conducted by Socrates Garcia. Believe me, the arrangements are dynamic and beautiful. The orchestration is lush and the musicians are masterfully articulate.
Garcia claims his music to be “autobiographical” as in “… a point of arrival and departure, arriving to a place where I could combine my heritage with the aesthetics of jazz; departure, towards a promising future for this symbiotic relationship.”
On “Vantage Point,” stewing in ‘merengue’ and allowing Felix ‘Abuelo’ Garcia to flex his percussive muscles, I am hooked. The rhythms are contagious and make me want to dance and celebrate life. Garcia brings his Dominican Republic roots to the party. The musicians sparkle like stars over the cities of Santo Domingo or Santiago de los Caballeros. Each song has a generous story included in the linear notes to explain what prompted that particular composition. There is mention of ‘bachata’ being a type of music currently accepted worldwide that grew, like the USA blues, from the underground. For many years, bachata was considered a second-class music. It is represented prominently in the title tune, “Back Home” that Garcia claims is a brief journey through his musical career. He has bridged cultures, using pillars of Heavy Metal, Dominican folk music and jazz to support his extravagantly structured arrangements and compositions. Because of the clarity of this recording, I must give credit to Garcia and Greg Heimbecker for their mixologist expertise and to Heimbecker for the final mastering; beautifully executed!
Socrates Garcia is the Director of Music Technology at University of Northern Colorado where he teaches courses in Music Technology, Digital Composition and Recording Techniques. This is also where he recorded this project. Dr. Garcia’s credits include the album Yo Por Ti by Puerto Rican artist Olga Tañon, Grammy Award winner of Merengue Album of the Year 2001; musical director/keyboardist for Los Ilegales in their 1997-1998 Latin American tour; keyboardist for multi-Grammy winner Juan Luis Guerra; and guest performer with the Dominican Republic’s National Symphony Orchestra, among others. His first solo CD titled “Suenos”, was released in 2005. This contemporary jazz big band project is bound to be another feather in the cap of a scholar and creative genius who brings multi-culture and flair to the big band stage. You can find Scores/Parts available at http://www.uncjazzpress.com”.”