By Raul Da Gama

Before you even hear the first note on Bámbula by the contrabassist Alex “Apolo” Ayala, you can almost feel the weight of the music that is to follow when you spin this disc. The bassist, proudly clothed in an African-inspired ceremonial garb, whose photograph is on the cover, comes with muted images of his mother and grandmother hovering behind him, honoured resident spirits that have informed his whole life, and now, this impeccably performed, recorded and presented album. It is a masterpiece of a recording by any bassist playing music today. [The only one that comes close is El Suelo Mío, the solo recording of the great Peruvian Jorge Roeder].

The dark, often growling tones of Mr Ayala’s tone speaks to his ruminatively prayerful state of mind – both as the writer and performer of these songs. And yet his voice is luminous and he plays the repertoire with unforced rhetoric even as he recalls with meticulously planned tenderness, memories of his grandmother, his mother and – above all – his proud Afro-Puerto Rican Heritage in song. You’ll hear an unique kind of textural complexity, intuitive pacing – driven by the rolling thunder of Puerto Rican rhythms pronounced with enormous authority by drummer Fernando García and [more so] by the mesmerising authority of Nelson Mateo González on the barril de bomba as well as on incidental percussion.

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