The Afro Caribbean Jazz Collective was initiated by guitarist José Guzmán from Puerto Rico, who skillfully blends jazz with Puerto Rican spices. It all began during his studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 2020, Guzman won the Urbana Arts Grant, which provided him with the opportunity to compose new works using Afro-Cuban and Puerto Rican rhythms. The compositions were presented at the CU Jazz Fest 2020. The group is celebrating its fifth year of performances in central Illinois and aims to expand in 2023 with the release and tour support of their full album, “Fiesta at Caroga,” in the summer. Their self-titled EP (2019) was aired on radio stations across the country as well as in South America. “Maria Cervantes” was included in playlists such as Colombia’s Solar Latin Club and was a semi-finalist in the Unsigned Only 2020 music competition.
It is a beautiful album where clever compositions are skillfully adorned with Latin rhythms and warm-sounding brass instruments. However, this album is too short with only six tracks; one reaches the end quickly and starts over for fear of having missed something, which is indeed the case because, upon a second listen, one understands that creating such an expertly crafted album with more than ten tracks would have surely been challenging. In fact, this is how José Guzmán defines his music: “With a sound cocktail where changüí blends with modern harmonies and where Latin jazz plays a major role, The Afro-Caribbean Jazz Collective is a sober and serious album that provides entertainment without being frivolous. On the contrary, each musician’s virtuosity shines through their repertoire.”
Indeed, frivolity is only apparent on this album with its complex writing and precise rhythms, revealing, for the listener who gets lost in their dreams, a blue sea and a lingering sun, a form of ethnicity maintained by the percussions and enchantment delivered by the brass instruments. The music also knows how to be mysterious, tender, or poetic. José Guzmán, a guitarist as impressive as he is discreet within the group, presents remarkably intelligent compositions that prove that Afro-Cuban music in its jazz form still has many secrets to reveal to us.
I will let you discover many other pieces of information presented on the Afro Caribbean Jazz Collective’s website, and in all honesty, if you enjoy jazz tinted with Caribbean music, this album will be like a true gift for you, especially when you learn that Bayou Blue Radio and Paris-Move have listed it as one of their “Essentials.”
Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News
PARIS-MOVE, January 17th 2024