Seriously blown away by the crackling energies, sonic innovations and dynamic jazz fusion innovations of Puerto Rican guitarist Jandro Rivas, founder of the collective Calabó, I raved in my review of their 2020 debut album One Day at a Time: “Latin music doesn’t just have a new guitar hero – it’s got a literal one-man jazz band paving the way towards a bright fanciful future.”
The longtime lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for the acoustic rock quintet Abuelo Mundo – a mainstay in PR for over 20 years – Rivas’ initial goal was to create a collaboration with local soloists and lay various groove-oriented foundations for colorful improvisations. Yet that first album, as dynamic and powerful a showcase as it was, only included one collaborative track – with guest Daniel Diaz adding his flamenco magic to “Lonely Cabaret.”
Under Rivas’ leadership, the Calabó aesthetic evolves powerfully into a guitar ensemble reflecting the guitarist’s original vision on their second recording Mind Colors. With deeper explorations of his passions for rock, Latin and jazz, he engages Diaz and another great talent Letzer Cartagena – both of whom have studied at the Conservatory of Music in Puerto Rico – to create some wild, inspiring and freewheeling musical conversations. Riffing off the theme of the clever album title, it’s as if they’re working intuitively and telepathically as they draw from an expansive palette of colorful licks, infectious melodies and stylistically eclectic grooves.
The trio wastes no time drawing us into the high octane power potential, forging an explosive tag team effect on the hard swinging high octane opener “Tertulia,” which blazes along on the strength of Rivas’ edgy and imaginative, rocked out distortion before Diaz breezes in with his deeply melodic, but more subtle (and supremely tasteful jazz guitar intricacies, followed by the swirling rhythm guitar cool of Cartagena. It’s a track with three distinct voices that find common soaring purpose.
Sometimes Rivas chooses the duo approach, most intensely and emotionally on another crackling, hard grooving jazz-rocker, the perfectly titled “Funky Twilight,” which finds Rivas and Diaz jamming and improvising wildly, battling for dominance back and forth yet also at times creating tasty, gritty harmonies. Another great example of Calabó’s dual magic is “Letz Jam,” a playful, synth tinged romp whose double entendre title not only captures the lively spirit of the track but also Cartagena’s strong electric guitar melody and improv, with Rivas in a more restrained harmonic role.
The playing is so compelling and robust, and the tracks so varied in rhythm and intensity, that it seems like there are more than eight tracks and only 31 minutes of music. Best experienced as a start to finish listen than discovering individual tracks on contemporary jazz fusion playlists, the collection’s highlights include the bustling, deeply percussive (and slightly mystical) “Salty Sweet”; the hard chugging distortion party rock-blues fired “Jaldeño Blues”; the sensual and soulful, easy swaying Latin romance “Arboleda” (featuring some quirky old school keyboard solos); and the intimate, seductive mid-tempo ballad “Midnight Son,” so named for its clear “son Cubano” influence.
Listen to Mind Colors: Spotify – Mind Colors