Alex Garcia’s Afromantra: This Side of Mestizaje

Drummer extraordinaire Alex Garcia deftly balances finesse and fire on this delightful modern-jazz outing. From the very start of the opening cut, “Believe,” it’s obvious that the Chilean-born drummer has virtuosity to spare-check out his precise, intricate cross rhythms between snare, toms and cowbells. But he brings a light touch to the music that enables listeners to focus on the bracing melodic contours of the song, animated by Ole Mathisen’s soprano saxophone and Mike Eckroth’s smoldering Fender Rhodes fills.

From there, the band launches into a solid set of Latin-fusion tunes, loaded with quick, complicated rhythmic turnarounds and propulsive grooves. Bassist Ariel de la Portilla helps Garcia steer the quartet with a fleet pulsation on top of which Mathisen and Eckroth trade adventurous improvisations.

With strong echoes of Weather Report and Yellowjackets-particularly on the soaring “Mestizaje” and the evocative “Landscape of a Thought”-Garcia’s AfroMantra extends the great legacy of Latin-infused jazz-fusion. With more collective and compositional growth, the band could become as singular as its lodestars.