This new album from Brazilian musician Leandro Kalén is surprising. Opening tracks are reminiscent of Santana-style guitar work with layers of Latino/world drumming and percussion. Track 1: Olivo is a slick, slinky opening number with a funky rhythm and tight vocals. By Track 3: Submundo, the music shifts into a distinctive rock-jazz fusion style that harks back to Miles Davis, and to later solo work by his youthful prodigy drummer Tony Williams. Songs are infused with poly-tonal and multi-rhythmic improvisational sounds. Sound effects that include speaking, children’s voices, someone reading poetry in Portuguese. Nature sounds are sometimes used to segue from one track to the next.

The album kicks back on Track 5: Despertando al Diablo. This is more of an adult-contemporary jazz ballad. The next three track follow suit with slow, romantic ballads. Track 9: Pueblo returns to the more experimental sounds that evolve into a presentation of intense, complex drumming. Track 10: Viento del Azur returns to the adult-contemporary jazz ballad idiom. The sounds are sophisticated and multi-layered with intensity and complexity.

Track 14: Hold Your Fire shifts into r&b mode, featuring lyrics in English and Portuguese. There are sections of Portuguese rap layered with the slick, skillful instrumentation that characterizes the entire album. This particular track has a slammin’ bass line that’s well worth hearing. Track 15: Extrano shifts yet again into a slower ballad with some neoclassical features. The album ends with Track 16: Manual de Etica Imaginaria, a short track with lovely guitar playing and children’s voices.

Although the songs on the album have roots in different genres, the cohesive instrumentation, excellent musicianship, and persistently high-intensity performances help to unify the album’s contents. The idioms shift from funk to contemporary jazz ballads to r&b, which listeners may find either interesting or inconsistent. It certainly shows a wide range and variety of thought and expression.

East-West fusions in the World music category are well known. This kind of album offers a North-Central-South American fusion that’s unique and energetic. “Mecanica Celeste” definitely passed the Poo-Car test! It’s a fascinating presentation of a styles and genres all performed with top-notch musicianship.

~review by Elizabeth Hazel

Artist: Leandro Kalen
Leandro Kalen, 2015
16 tracks, 65 mins. Mp3 download $10 at: https://leandrokalen.bandcamp.com/

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