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Socrates Garcia Latin Jazz Orchestra: Back Home

- CD Reviews

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Socrates Garcia Latin Jazz Orchestra: Back Home
(Web Page)

Socrates Garcia: Composer, Arranger, Conductor
Woodwinds: Wil Swindler, Briana Harris, Kenyon Brenner,
Brielle Frost, Joel Harris, Ryan Middagh
Trumpets/Flugelhorns: Brad Goode, Dave Rajewski,
Jordan Skomal, Miles Roth
Trombones: Joe Chisholm, Frank Cook, Jonathan Zimmy,
Guillermo Rivera, Gary Mayne
Piano: Manuel Tejada, Bass: Pengbian Sang
Guitars: Steve Kovalcheck, Socrates Garcia
Drums: Helen De La Rosa
Percussion: Felix “Abuelo” Garcia, Rafael Almengod,
Josue Reynoso, Otoniel Nicolas
Vocals on “From Across the Street”: Hovernys Santana,
Felix “Abuelo” Garcia, Lia Nova, Rafael Almengod


Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 24, 2016

This CD is, with more than two dozen musicians collaborating, is an album of seven Latin Jazz Big Band tunes, all composed by Socrates Garcia. This project is also a tribute to the Dominican Republic, where Garcia was born. Garcia, now Director of Music Technology at the University of Northern Colorado, also includes a three-track Dominican Suite for Jazz Orchestra, with “Homage to Tavito”, “Bachata for Two”, and “From Across the Street”. These three tunes, respectively, pay homage to a Dominican musician who merged bebop with merengue, to Garcia’s wife, and to the vocal and percussive Dominican folk music. I recall my own trip to Santo Domingo and the live dance bands I experienced, and Garcia has expertly synthesized the essence of the merengue and other Dominican musical genres with full big band jazz. Garcia recorded this album in Colorado and in the Dominican Republic, with highly sophisticated production expertise. You’ll want to listen to these tracks multiple times for the exotic rhythms and vibrant orchestrations.

All music composed, arranged, and conducted by Socrates Garcia.

Notable tracks:

#2 – Calle El Conde a las 8:00 – This magnetic track opens with sharp, vivacious congas and bubbly, racy brass. The rhythmic fever continues throughout, transporting the listener to Santo Domingo. Piano flash and flourish endure in the mambo, clavé tempos. The trumpets mimic horns honking on this Dominican street, whose name is the title of the tune. Impressive sax and horn solos emanate in tropical pulse. This street was Garcia’s go-to shopping venue for record stores that sold Afro-Caribbean music. The rhythms are raucous and charged, as mambo dance clubs come to mind.

#4 – Back Home – This title tune fills an energized, big band track, dedicated to the bachata, a 1960’s Dominican music form. A melodic piano solo introduces the full, orchestral theme, with two saxophone solos. This is not an album that features one or two musicians, but rather an album with a refined, substantial cadre of straightforward jazz and Latin artists whose collaboration creates a transformative listening experience. If you play this track two, three times, you’ll hear nuanced details with astounding tonalities.

#5 – Homage to Tavito – This first of three tracks that become Garcia’s Dominican Suite for Jazz Orchestra is an homage to the musician considered to be the “Charlie Parker of the Caribbean”. Soft, rapid Latin percussion opens for the big band, as it showcases its instrumental grandeur. Drums, horns, and reeds shift attention to an incandescent piano and racing sax solo, evocative of Parker himself. The technological mastery in producing this new album is certainly appreciated when listening to this Suite.

#7 – From Across the Street – The sultry ensemble of street vocals and steel percussion will transport you to Dominican folk music. There’s a West African motif inherent in the sound, as well. You won’t resist swaying to the rambunctious rhythms. This final track of Garcia’s Suite is inspirational and spellbinding. A superb, extended sax solo gives way to whistles, congas, guiro, and timbal, with a second round of vocals sealing the authentic folk aura. Socrates Garcia’s new album, Back Home, is a must-have for serious Latin Jazz aficionados.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at