Yerba Buena : : President Alien

President AlienThough I've listened to traditional Latin music most of my life, it's been sort of a sountrack that seeped into my day to day, not music I actively pursued or could take much meaning from. Typifying my exposure to modern Latin groove music was the genre splicing groove machine from my home town of Los Angeles, Ozomatli. Ozomatli established a beachhead for the crossover of a new generation of Latin-rooted musicians to expand their scene. Yerba Buena, a collective of amazing musicians, continue this tradition and have delivered a gem of a party album.

With a severly limited command of Spanish, I can only peek into the lyrics of the album. Fortunately, several songs sport English raps but I suspect the Spanish ones offer better stories. Yerba Buena means "good herb," giving you a clue as to one of their inspirations. The band's combination of tight production, layered rhythms, and multi-instrumental, infectious grooves are definitely a nice compliment to the good herb.

This collective sports no less than 20 guest musicians who contribute on a dozen songs and keep the party going throughout. Producer Andres Levin, who plays guitar, keyboard, and horns and sings on numerous tracks, is the eye of this hurricane. Pedro Martinez plays a mean conga on songs like "Follow Me" and "Definition of a Warrior." Ron Blake's groovy alto saxophone deserves special mention as well. Special guests lending talents to various tracks include Roy Hargrove on trumpet, Me'Shell NdegeOcello on bass and vocals, and Beastie Boy keyboardist Money Mark. A simmering stew of salsa, Cuban, hip-hop, jazz, and African influences, this is American music that is tastier than anything you'll find on Clear Channel radio.

Haig Assadourian

[Published on: 5/20/04]

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