My parents live in northern New Mexico. Their town is a pretty standard place and not much to brag about, but it does claim to be the birthplace of all ‘Low Riders’. So, when I got Chris Washburne & the SYOTOS band’s CD “Low Ridin’”, I was really stoked, because there should a soundtrack for this interesting pastime.
‘Low Riding’ has Latino roots and so does this CD, but with a kind of twist. It has a distinctively discordant Latin Jazz vibe. I don’t think it is too over-the-top, but there is enough to give this music a somewhat surreal presentation. Chris describes this music as, “Acid Mambo” and “Afro-Latin Jazz on a psychedelic trip”.
I think of it comparatively to Pablo Picasso’s art, his cubism in particular, just applied to music. The idea is to take complex arrangements of very familiar songs with a solid foundation of sweet Latin tempos and alter them with some sharp musical angles, cracks and shading. You can clearly recognize the images, even though they are distorted in a calculated manner.
I especially enjoyed that these are all familiar tunes, and ones that I like, but now are different and fresh in a re-worked way. It is a brilliant concept to take this theme and make a whole CD with it!
The Band is a tightly woven, well synchronized machine (that has been together for over 23 years), that can pull off these intricate, seemingly random altered musical compositions and still keep a forward momentum that mimics the movement of the vehicles that this CD is inspired by. Great horns and a serious Latin percussion section make this project rally pop! Tracks 7, “Walk on the Wild Side” and 10, “Sugar Mountain” specially showcase the bass skills of Leo Traversa.
While writing this, I could not find any video of the tracks from this CD, but this video of Chris Washburn & the SYOTOS Band will give you an idea of the bands sound.
I will say that the absolute passion for Latin Music is evident throughout the entire CD. After all, who takes eleven pop songs and “Latinizes” them into a salsa format? I was curious as to how the bandleader and trombonist, Chris Washburne came to get so immersed in this genre, and I was fortunate enough to find this footage from 2009 of him at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies in New York.
All in all, it may be my New Mexican roots, or perhaps the many years I spent living in Puerto Rico, but I really enjoyed listening to this CD. Give it a listen and you will dig it too! (Even more if you are driving an actual Low Rider).