Zemog,
El Gallo Bueno
(Aagoo, 2003)

Aib Gomez, the creator/founder of Zemog, is a clever musician, punster and master of his craft. For those of us who took Spanish in school (and have perhaps forgotten much of it except for phrases like "Mi nombre es Anita"), "El Gallo Bueno" means "The Good Rooster." "Zemog," for the uninitiated, is merely Gomez spelled backward. Thus, Zemog starts this exciting, spirited CD with clever wordplay and a host of exciting sounds that captivate the listener.

In the liner notes, which explain the whys and wherefores of this aggressively masculine CD, we learn that Gomez has always been fascinated by roosters -- one may say, haunted by them, due to bad dreams as a child. Eventually, those dreams were expunged by the drumming, singing and pounding rhythms of this CD.

Gomez has an interesting multi-cultural background that ranges from Puerto Rico to Massachusetts. His initial "Avant salsa/rock" quintet, Jayuya, eventually led to his current "post-salsa big band" consisting of eight musicians, themselves with very interesting backgrounds.

Santiago Greco, a member of a politically persecuted Argentinian family that escaped to Mexico, is a Berklee graduate and bass player; Giancarlo Buscaglia, sitting in for this CD, plays cuatro, guitar and baritone guitar, and sings, and additionally has his own band, Balaton; Timo Shanko, who plays upright bass with The Fully Celebrated Orchestra, has transcribed 38 volumes of John Coltrane solos; Taylor Ho-Bynum, of Welsh and Chinese origins, plays trumpet and is also a member of The Fully Celebrated Orchestra; Jim Mesbauer is described as "the best salsa trombonist outside of NYC"; Luis Blanco, former punk rocker, is also in Balaton; and Jose Ayala is the final guitarist. All of these musicians, in addition to several others who appear on this CD, obviously take great joy in performing these pieces.

The pieces on this CD are difficult to individually describe. While listening to it, I felt it had a stream of consciousness air, and had the feeling that the band was maybe in the next room, at a really great party. At any minute, I fully expected to see Shakira and Robert Duvall boogying through a tango. Tango is not salsa, I know, but the underlying themes of this CD are such that one cannot help wanting to get up and dance.

The universal theme of "let the good times roll" is evident in each piece. I think it would have been helpful to have an English translation of the lyrics, as well as the titles, if only so that the listener could read along, and see what the partying, and maybe, mourning is all about. Although I enjoyed El Gallo Bueno very much, I think it is a bit of a disservice to those who listen to the music, as well as the musicians, to not have a clue what the music is all about. Although there were some helpful liner notes, I was intrigued enough to yearn for a bit more understanding, and perhaps a less visceral feeling of the sounds being slung at me with such enthusiasm and obvious joy.

El Gallo Bueno is well worth a listen. It is fun, hypnotic and worthy of its creators. It would really be a standout if I understood more its intent. Que lastima!

- Rambles
written by Ann Flynt
published 3 May 2003



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