Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Album Review: The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow-Cochemea Gastelum

Guardian Angel by afrobeatblog

To paraphrase the great Bill Cosby, this is the funkiest elevator music I've ever heard. The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow, the debut album from Cochemea Gastelum out July 20, 2010 on MOWO! Records, is the soundtrack to the life of the fictional character Johnny Arrow. From the sound of the album, Johnny Arrow is a bad-ass player from the streets of Spanish Harlem in the year 2050.

Cochemea Gastelum is best known for playing Baritone Saxophone in The Dap-Kings, quite possibly the funkiest band on the planet. That funky sensibility is alive and well on this album but adjusted to Gastelum's electric modern sensibility. Fusing elements of Latin Jazz, Acid Jazz, Soul, and Funk, this album makes a unique statement. Certain tracks are danceably upbeat, while others are slow, soulful ballads. Using string arrangements, a fender rhodes, and a variety of soulful saxophones ranging from bari to electric alto, Gastelum has composed a complete album that conveys a range of moods and emotions, similar to the film score for The Mack (in case anyone besides me owns that record and therefore gets the reference).

The album's signature track is definitely Arrow's Theme. You can't help but imagine an opening montage to a movie about a smooth-talking street-wise hustler, or a slick spy with a bombshell on his arm. Either way the theme music fits. Other tracks have a decidedly Latin Jazz feel like Carlito! while still maintaining a strong Acid Jazz vibe. Then other tracks like You're So Good To Me and No Goodbyes have a smooth, funky attitude that tell a story all their own.

The tracks that grab my attention the most on this album definitely have to be the ones that most prominently feature electric drums fostering a vibe that's a mix between late Miles Acid Jazz like The Man with the Horn and Sly's 1973 funk masterpiece Fresh. Tracks like Guardian Angel, Impala '73 and Fathom 5 exude an elevator music vibe, but I guarantee you'll never hear elevator music as good as this.

While Cochemea Gastelum's work with Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings might draw people to this record, potential listeners should be aware, this record is not a direct extension of the Dap-Kings. While soul has a strong presence throughout the record, this is something different and unique, a new direction altogether from The Dap-Kings' sound.

Arrow's Theme by afrobeatblog

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, that's no doubt that a member of The Dap-Kings could be make a groove album like this work.

As well as intensive, Cochemea proved on "The Electric Sound" that he could do perfectly a Soul and R&b sound with your consecrated band and, at same time, do the heaviest possible funk in another project. Even as soloist.