From the outset of this, his debut CD, Edmar Castaneda has set very high standards. The native of Colombia departs from jazz harp players like Dorothy Ashby, Corky Hale, and Christa Grix in that he plays no standards or traditional swing of any kind. Yet there is a syncopated sensibility deeply rooted in his soul, an improvisational mindset, and a compositional concept of using jazz instrumentation, all of which broaden his appeal, as evidenced by his status as a darling on the international festival circuit. With able help from the excellent trombonist Marshall Gilkes, Castaneda weaves fine threads around a world music touching upon Latin and African modes that in essence are the building blocks of jazz. Gilkes is a marvelous foil, dishing out delicious, playful, and robust melodies from the outset on "Sabroson," as well as the swing to New Orleans shuffle jam "Colombian Dixie," a popping upbeat fusion of contrasts during "Afro Seis," and the sprightly, lilting waltz (penned by the trombonist) "Looking Forward," buoyed by bunches of rhythmic chords from Castaneda. Offering even greater variations, "Canto" is a settled 6/8 song with singing and spoken word passages from Castaneda's wife, Andrea Tierra, the title track explores a floating, solemn, flamenco side within the same meter, while "Jesus de Nazareth" is pretty, Biblically proportioned on the slighter side, slow walking, inexorable, and cascading. Jazz vibraphone veteran Joe Locke guests on two selections, furthering the diversity and sonic palate of Castaneda: the kora-like, upbeat, and complex griot dance "Colibri" and the lightly improvised "Song of Hope" in a spirited but restrained waltz. Trap drummer David Silliman keeps things rolling along, navigating these rhythms in village or tribal means without a hint of inclined or implied hard bop, unflinching in his duty to keep these beats steady. As triumphant as this music tends to be from start to finish, one has to be reminded that this is an entry point into the professional euphonic world for Edmar Castaneda. While his compositions outweigh whatever musical acumen he has already achieved, it's a wonderful first step, and identifies him as an artist to be paying close attention to in the years ahead.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos