CD Reviews ~
"Damn, this is good. Mauleón, the author of the classic instruction book The Salsa Guidebook, has put on a show on how to make a modern descarga record. She’s backed by the best of the West Coast Latin scene, including icons like Armando Peraza and Orestes Vilató, along with Giovanni Hidalgo and the Cuban drummer Jimmy Branly. Mauleón makes it all work, supplying tumbaos that drip with sudden, unexpected modern harmonies, and changing the dynamics of the tunes, dropping the volume of her piano, and laying out at times. She’ll add horn punches with two-handed chords, then move back into the tumbaos; it makes the whole thing sound improvised, but full, and thoughtful – she’s listening, orchestrating on the spot. Hidalgo sounds great - listen to him on the opening track - and Francisco Torres, the trombonist, etches out some relaxed, expressive improvisations. This is a classic descarga, epic at times, open, modern and loose. It’s also well recorded. Highly Recommended.”
-- Peter Watrous, May 20, 2006, Descarga.com.
"Descarga en California offers the best of both worlds. The music is familiar, like home, and yet the performances are so daring that one can't help but feel that they are hearing comparsa for the first time. Though the disc is noticeably void of piano solos, which seems strange at first, Mauleón certainly makes her presence known. She has a swing and grace to her style that is unmistakable, the spine of the band. Percussionists Armando Peraza, Orestes Vilató and Giovanni Hidalgo supply more than enough mind bending, time shifting solo phrases to make up for the lack of showing off on the part of the band leader. With an unmistakably West Coast taste for backbeat, the priority of every tune is the pocket, an unwavering groove, cut deep by Cuban drummer Jimmy Branly. Every single tune twists and winds it's way to top-of-the-lungs coro-shouting intensity before fading out, in true descarga style. The arrangements are smart and tasty, with the confident touch of an artist who has nothing to prove, just wanting to make truly good music. The soloists, on the other hand, play with reckless abandon, like they have nothing to lose. It is exactly her ability to find this balance that distinguishes Mauleón as one of the hippest band-leaders in Latin music today. Latin music fans can only hope that there's a lot more where Descarga en California came from."
-- Evan C. Gutierrez, All Music Guide
"One of San Francisco's finest, pianist Rebeca Mauleón, just released Latin Fire, with a superb percussion section that includes Giovanni Hidalgo and Jimmy Branly. Check out the tracks ‘A La Rumba, ‘Batamambo,’ ‘La Ventana,’ ‘CuBrazil’ and ‘Pa'lante’ to experience what many have known for years -- Mauleón is a monster musician with enormous talent to spare."
-- Nelson Rodríguez, September 2004, Latin Beat Magazine
"Rarely has the well-worn phrase 'Latin fire' been so appropriate. From the get go, this one’s on fire alright and it’s a result of fine tuned compositions, tightly edited arrangements, an amazing sense of pacing, and top echelon Latin musicianship. With Latin Fire, Rebeca Mauleón is looking at a Latin Grammy or something’s wrong.She has combined one of the slickest, trickiest ensemble performances in years with radio friendly material that transcends mediocre pop… From the opener, "Batamambo", an up tempo grabber in which, yes, there is a strong mambo section and a lurking bata drum, sometimes rearing up in the sub woofer, it is clear that these musicians are having fun. Rebeca’s piano lays down a percolating groove that lurches into an up tempo Latin jazz. Such probing and interesting piano! Such high energy scatting trumpet! Such intricate yet ultimately anchoring conga chops - even the cowbell parts are worthy of examination! Long before the trumpet solo, we know we are the presence of greatness….Rebeca Mauleon’s Latin Fire is truly one of the strongest Latin CDs out there, judged in terms of concept, arrangements, execution, recording quality, and, not least, the excitement factor. Highly recommended."
“From the first notes of Latin Fire, it's clear that the title is accurate. These days the words ‘Latin fire’ are way over-used, applied to anything with an Afro-Cuban beat and exotic percussion. But much of it is too soggy to catch fire. Mauleón's music, in contrast, has that special snap and passion that signals the best of Latin music—as well as the best of music in general, now that I think of it.”
-- Dr. Judith Schlesinger, All About Jazz
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