Bobby Sanabria & Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, Kenya Revisited Live

kenya_phixr.jpg“This is the music of yesterday, today, and tomorrow,” Bobby Sanabria tells the audience. Jazz itself is timeless, but this recording in particular is in its own time period, a tribute to Machito & The Afro-Cubans, a new vision of their 1957 Kenya recording. This is Kenya Revisited Live!!!

“Frenzy” is a fitting title for the first track, as it is fast-paced and fun. The musicians in question, the Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, conducted by Bobby Sanabria, are phenomenally talented. It features a plethora of solos that are all credited at the end, a bonus of listening to a live recording, as you can put a name with a riff.

The ensemble switches gears with “Congo Mulence,” a tune that is still upbeat but less frantic. Listening to this ten-minute number, it’s hard not to tap your foot to the beat, snap your fingers, or even dance. And once again, a plethora of soloists show off their chops.

Not only does this group have talent, but it has energy. And passion. Jazz requires a certain type of player, one who isn’t afraid to break the rules and see beyond what’s on the page. It’s one of the freest forms of music. The freedom is evident in the solos, but the real beauty lies where the band comes together. Perfectly in sync, these musicians are connected. The listener feels not only the bond between the performers, but the connection to the original recording and to everyone who’s ever picked up an instrument and played a jazz riff.

One of the best things about this recording is the cultural connection. While many of the melodies are universal, it is really the beat that ties the music to Africa. This adds a great flavor and a little something special to this group. It’s part of a great tradition of musicians, and it’s a pleasure for the ear.

Review By: Valerie Williams

[Rating: 4.5/5]

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