Bio Ritmo,
Bio Ritmo
(Locutor, 2004)

Bio Ritmo has been around since 1991. This nine-member band focuses on classic salsa with a "modern twist," according to the promo material. The band's recently released, self-titled CD contains eight tracks that fuse a bit of soul, rock and jazz within a salsa base. The band admits that, while their songs are original, they are not pioneering a new musical style. They are simply reaching back to the golden age of the genre.

The band is Rei Alvarez (vocals, guiro), Giustino "Justin" Riccio (timbales, coros), Gabriel "Gabo" Tomasini (congas), Marlysse Simmons (piano, wah-pedal), Cameron "Raul" Ralston (bass), Bob Miller (trumpet, coros), Tim Lett (trumpet), Tobias Whitaker (trombone) and Stefan Demetriadis (bass trombone).

This, the band's fourth album, was my first introduction to their music. The sound definitely recalls music of an earlier era. The music is full of energy and the horn work is, for the most part, quite good. There is a synergy, at least on the first three-fourths of the CD, that comes across loud and clear. At a time when a lot of modern music is starting to sound dull and repetitive, many of the tracks presented here are a splash of color by comparison.

Where this CD loses me is on the final two tracks. "Para los Romperos" is a little too experimental for my taste. An element of improv jazz sneaks in. While I quite enjoy jazz from the first half of the 20th century, most modern improv is little more than random noise, in my opinion. The promo material states this song should invoke the feel of a '70s cop-chase scene. I can hear that, but unless you are a big fan of cop-chase scenes, then what is the point?

"El Rayito" is only an OK song. Alvarez is not the world's greatest singer. On the faster-paced tracks, the music overpowers his vocals, so they are not an issue. This last song, unfortunately, breaks the momentum of the album and ends the CD on a monotonous note. The rhythm is slow and ponderous, which places the focus on the vocals. Personally, I would rather not listen to his singing. Bring back the horns and the beat!

Since I feel there are only six good tracks on Bio Ritmo's self-titled CD, I am hard pressed to recommend it -- at least not as a full-priced CD. Perhaps if the last two tracks had been skipped, this might have made a nice EP. In the band's defense, let me note that the promo material stresses the importance of the lyrics. If you are fluent in Spanish, perhaps you will get more out of the CD than I did.

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 3 July 2004

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