The Colombian salsa stars of Grupo Niche are, as the name of their 2005 release would imply, alive and well. In fact, it's arguable that not only are they, but they have never sounded so good. Over the 25 years since the release of their debut, Al Pasito, Grupo Niche have distilled their sound, while their arrangements and writing have matured. Thanks in large part to bandleader and arranger Jairo Varela, who wrote every tune on Alive, they have gone from being a Colombian national favorite to an internationally recognized institution. While the horn writing and rhythm section are still on the simple side, they have gone from sounding sophomoric to seasoned. While maintaining the less-is-more, song-oriented approach that has defined their voice for years, they are sounding as though that is a carefully measured choice; one not made because they aren't capable of more, as they have sounded at times in the past. The sound of the percussion section is rich, fat, and executed with precision. Both the coro and sonero have confidence and fire as never before. Harmonically complex elements of Latin jazz have found their way into the horn section. With smooth, brilliant production and gutsy performances from every corner of this band, Alive delivers on Grupo Niche's reputation and them some.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Evan C. Gutierrez