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Gumbi Ortiz: Miami

Looking at the CD cover laden with neon and, yes, pink flamingos, one might plan a trip back in time to the ’80s. With Miami, percussionist Gumbi Ortiz (pronounced “Goombi”) surrounds himself with all of the players from the era of strap-on keyboards and gives us smooth jazz with a pseudo-Latin flair. While some folks may prefer their jazz with a bit more substance, this debut from the Al Di Meola percussionist gives us just enough conga-drumming to constitute more than background music played by some of our favorites: Jeff Lorber, Dave Weckl, Eric Marienthal, Brandon Fields and a host of other greats.

I would have hoped for a bit more “content” than the sideman role attributed to most fusion percussionists, but, alas, the congas are relegated to their role as “toys” while Dave Weckl’s expert drumming outshines everything. The most attention-grabbing tracks feature Ortiz and Weckl in an impromptu, jamlike setting; however, the main focus of this offering maintains its place in the “safe” zone of synth-driven noodling.

Granted, some folks really enjoy fusion, but Miami offers little in the way of definitive Afro-Latin grooves. It is well recorded, though, and will please time-travelers everywhere.

Originally Published