Ozomatli

Non-Stop: Mexico to Jamaica

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Given the many musical genres Ozomatli have played for more than 20 years, a collection of Mexican tunes by way of Jamaican rhythms should come as no surprise, right? Maybe, but this L.A. ensemble has gone into its Latin origins deep on this one. From traditional songs and standards to modern fare, Ozomatli place their sophisticated musicality and intense energy into celebrating inseparable connections between Mexican music and Caribbean sounds. Who better to assist than Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare? They produced the album and are far from the only guests. The set opener is a deep dread cover of Café Tacvba's "Eres," with Asdrubal Sierra's vocals hovering above the steamy dub consuming the mix. Amid the reverb and effects, Sabrina Luna's cello adds an element of mariachi and Sierra's trumpet confirms it. Herb Alpert's horn graces "Besame Mucho," with its slippery cumbia rhythm. Sly & Robbie add dubby echoes as Alpert's fills duet with Sierra's vocals -- singing and rapping -- adding lightness to contrast with the heavy rhythms. Ozomatli deliver a killer version of Maná's "Oye Mi Amor" with rolling snares, funky flute, and bluesy guitars. The drenched-in-dub proceeding never loses its Mexican rock feel. Juanes adds a burning guitar break to a cover of Juan Gabriel's "Noa Noa." A ska rhythm with great saxophone fills from Ulises Bella accompanies the sweet melody.

Ska might seem a strange backdrop for Selena's iconic "Como la Flor," but Sierra's glorious falsetto and stacked backing chorus, subtly added merengue rhythms, and Bella's vintage rock & roll tenor sax make it a worthy tribute. Gaby Moreno's silky voice on "Solamente una Vez" (nee Luis Miguel) contrasts with Sierra's more grainy utterance in the verse, but they come together soulfully on the refrain as lovers rock holds sway. Corrido singer/songwriter Régulo Caro delivers the lead vocal on Julieta Venegas' ballad "Andar Conmingo," as field-recorded banda, lovers rock, melodica, and cumbia entwine with pop. Swirling horns and backmasked effects add to the romantic delirium. Fernando Z. Maldonado's mariachi anthem "Volver, Volver" is given a dubwise reggae treatment with help from the Mariachi Divas adding horns, strings, and backing vocals. Most of the the last third of Non-Stop: Mexico to Jamaica offers tunes easily recognizable to Anglos -- and in English -- but Ozomatli uncover the songs' roots and graft them onto the Caribbean's. "Evil Ways" offers Sly & Robbie adding steamy dread urgency. "Land of a Thousand Dances" features G. Love on lead vocals with Chali 2na rapping; they add some new dance styles to the lyrics. Closer "Come and Get Your Love" was originally a yacht rock hit for Native American rock band Redbone. This popping take offers bubbling basslines and jazzy horns amid cumbia percussion and a mariachi vein in the melody. This date is unmistakably in the Ozomatli wheelhouse, but it's also unlike anything else they've ever recorded. As always, they explore with a truckload of grooves, but the obvious reverence and actual love for all this music are truly inspiring.

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