• Jonathan Widran

ANGEL ROMAN & MAMBO BLUE, Festive Interplay

Veteran bassist Angel Roman’s multi-faceted career featuring impactful residencies in numerous American cities (Boston, Miami, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Nashville) is living musical proof that magnetic and charismatic artists always attract top talent to help them execute their vision, location notwithstanding. His group Mambo Blue is actually an ever-evolving collective infused with the brilliant musicians he works with wherever his muse takes him next.

The current ensemble, creating the sizzling, freewheeling interactive vibe embodied by the album title Festive Interplay, features 13 top Latin musicians from Roman’s current digs of Austin. With Roman propelling the groove but truly allowing every member of Mambo Blue to showcase their own imaginative fire, the band entices with both “The Quest” (an intoxicating journey filled with blazing sax and trumpet solos and an ever-transcendent horn section) and a question: What do we imagine when we start “Dreaming in Bomba”?


The true emotional centerpiece of the multi-faceted set, the track – ever bursting with soulful flute, sax and piano solos and those blasting horns - pays loving and whimsical homage to his parents’ birthplace of Puerto Rico, where the bomba rhythm is not only a popular dance and musical style but also historically significant. It’s worth a Google-wiki dive to learn that its origins are rooted in the island’s history of African slavery, created in the sugar plantations 400 years ago so to help the slaves of different African tribes communicate.


It’s evolved today into a community expression of Puerto Rican culture. The delights on Festive Interplay extend to the sassy/snazzed up, super-sensual “Collective Cha, whose title and boisterous energy are inspired by the music of the San Francisco Jazz Collective; the hotly percussive, frenetically fun “Not Sure So Sure”; and the hypnotic, infectious “Indi-go-go,” a passionate expression of love for Roman’s son Indigo featuring a unique element of dual drums and the soul-jazz Fender Rhodes simmer of Damian A. Garcia. Another colorful family-oriented affair is the trad meets Latin jazz romp “3 Sisters,” highlighted by Monkish chords, a waltz-like rhythm and emphatic flute/brass accents.