From the album opener “The Flight” to the title track, it is more than evident that pianist and composer (and co-producer) Gustavo Ramírez is fully committed to reviving the jazz-fusion era, but this time chock full of Afro-Cuban-isms in this pastiche of textures, breaks and groovy chords.
Encuentro (meaning “encounter”) embraces the marriage of Cuban music to one of jazz’s more recent offspring, and showcases the extraordinarily percussive nature of this union. Drummer and co-producer Raúl Pineda (known for his work with piano great Chucho Valdés) gets his ultimate groove on alongside the stellar talents of Ramírez, guest saxophonist Bob Mintzer, guitarist Dany Labana, percussionist/vocalist Jesús Diaz (featured on the powerful closer “Aquellas Gaviotas”) and bassist Juan Carlos Portillo, with keyboardist Nachito Herrera appearing on one track.
The twists and turns on this album are in a way a tribute to the ever-present influence of jazz-rock on Cuban musicians who grew and developed their talents during the ’80s, but add the richness of the island’s tradition through the presence of those timeless rhythms (and instruments) of the African diaspora. While this may sound solely like modern jazz to some, it is no less an expression of the sounds in the Cuban musical palette. The complexities here perhaps target an audience of musicians rather than jazz aficionados—after all, fusion has always been about flexing one’s muscles and not necessarily about simplicity. Nevertheless, Encuentro showcases an era in jazz that will not be dismissed, and spices it up with just about every Cuban rhythm you can think of.