Alex “Apolo” Ayala

(Truth Revolution)

Bámbula literally means “the memory of a forgotten place.” According to the Puerto Rican bassist Alex “Apolo” Ayala, that word refers to “the act of re-remembering who you are as a person, tapping into the collective unconscious. The Bámbula is [also] the oldest known rhythm of the Bomba complex.”

Bámbula clearly expresses Ayala’s intent. An homage to his ancestors (and specifically to the matriarchs of his family), the recording draws from time-honored Afro-Puerto Rican Bomba traditions, bebop jazz and even mambo to illustrate his heritage and identity.

This is Ayala’s first recording as a bandleader but he’s traversed the Latin jazz scene in New York for many years, playing with Richie Ray & Bobby Cruz, Mambo Legends Orchestra and Spanish Harlem Orchestra. That experience serves him well, and his comfort level with a spicy stew of rhythms and sensibilities is put to good use here.

The rhythm section’s exciting repartee on “Las Caras Lindas,” a song composed by Afro-Puerto Rican composer Tite Curet Alonso and recorded by the singer Ismael Rivera, feels like overhearing a juicy conversation at a coffee shop, while “Agosto” captures unhurried pace of the dog days of summer.

Bámbula is a solid first outing, hitting just the right notes for a Sunday morning sipping café with a loved one (the tableau beautifully captured with “Café y Bomba Eh”), and yet it doesn’t quite say anything new.

But, perhaps that’s yet another reference to the theme of the collection. After all, we can’t move forward without reverence for our roots and for the past.

On Sale Now
May 2024
Stefon Harris
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