Conjunto Jardin,
Floreando (Flowering)
(Trova, 2002)

Oftentimes, when I get new CDs to review, I put them in the player without paying much attention to the liner notes. I want to get an impression of the music before I find out about the artists. In the case of Floreando by Los Angeles-based Conjunto Jardin, I'm glad I did this. I was honestly caught off guard when I noted that the cover picture of the band looks like a bunch of gringos trying to act Mexican. I would have hated to be biased before I gave the music a chance to speak for itself.

Fortunately, I had already been grabbed by the group's infectious son jarocho style, not to mention the wonderful harmonies led by sisters Libby and Cindy Harding. The band's name, Conjunto Jardin, is a play on their surname. For those not familiar with the jarocho style of son, it is very upbeat and invites you to dance -- with or without a margarita in hand. The sound is dominated by small guitars, a harp (keyboards) and notable percussion. The music on Floreando was inspired by time the band spent performing in Veracruz, Mexico.

The opening song, "El Colas," is one of those tracks that I can play multiple times without getting tired of it. I feel compelled to mention that I was playing the CD around a Mexican-American friend of mine (who has always found it amusing that I listen to a lot of Hispanic music whereas he likes Pink Floyd). He started chuckling the more he listened to "El Colas." I asked him if the American-Mexican accents were obvious. He raised an eyebrow and said he didn't notice an accent; he was laughing because this song is about a guy named Nicolas who has a lot of girlfriends. Because of this, his mother-in-law is doing mean things to him. (What "mean things" meant was not explained to me.) My point with this side story is that Conjunto Jardin has a pretty authentic sound despite not being the original package.

My favorite track is "La Rama (The Branch)." The band performs this traditional Christmas carol in three parts. The song starts off slowly with some of the prettiest singing and harmonizing the sisters do. (I also enjoy the harmonizing on "De Puerto En Puerto"). With an almost seamless transition, the tempo of "La Rama" picks up and more instruments join in. At the perfect moment, the song takes off running. By the end of this almost five-minute song, the group surely has to be out of breath!

Conjunto Jardin has five permanent members. I've already mentioned the Harding sisters. Libby plays the jarana (small rhythm guitar) while Cindy handles the requinto (4-string guitar), flute and rainsticks. Gary Johnson performs on the (keyboard) harp, piano, quijada (donkey jawbone) and pandero (tambourine). Marcel Adjibi, from Benin, West Africa, plays the cajon (wooden box drum of slave origins). Rick Moors plays bass and is the only member of the band who does not sing. Jorge Miljangos is the band's Mexican native. I am unsure if he is now a permanent member or simply contributed to all of the tracks; he plays more instruments than I can mention. Guest musicians include Luis del Angel Garcia Sanchez, Timothy Harding (Libby and Cindy's father) and Ciro Hurtado.

Not one of the 11 selections on Floreando is bad. Conjunto Jardin has done a great job with their second release.

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 19 July 2003

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