On a lark. I asked for a cajon for my birthday a couple of weeks ago. Ever since I was introduced to this musical wooden box, back in Hawaii a few years ago, I thought that it was simple enough for me to use as therapy, a fun way to concentrate and get into a creative groove without embarrassing myself or annoying those nearby who must endure such indulgences. I also wanted an unobtrusive percussion instrument when listening to beat-heavy music I sometimes review, and I had my first chance this week with Dice Que Vive from Venezuelan sax player, composer, singer and producer Rafael Greco. In fact, Dice Que Vive–which means “signs of life”–got me into my first genuine and satisfying groove with my new little cajon, a sudden leap forward in the learning of this instrument.
I haven’t been avoiding Latin jazz so much as limiting my exposure to it lately–there’s a lot of it out there so it’s a genre that eventually burns me out if I let it wash over me like a tsunami. I do look for those original flourishes, and Rafael Greco’s debut album as a solo artist easily fits that description. While there are deep and complex rhythms here, there are additional satisfactions such as a willingness to venture into the realms of electronica and fusion. It’s a modern sound, one I haven’t quite heard before.
The traditional and the progressive share the stage equally, however, which addresses my need to look for more musical adventures at this point in my life. Yeah, that sounds a little New Age, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I suppose that birthday, one of those milestone “big” numbers, makes me think about all the incredible music in the margins, the genres and artists still undiscovered. That uniqueness is why Rafael Greco shines.
What distinguishes Dice Que Viva more than anything else is Rafael Greco and his voice, which is smooth and relaxed and yet dry and scratchy–a Venezuelan Peter Gabriel if you will. It’s a voice that provides a gorgeous center to the rich and playful percussion that shoots toward you from all directions. It’s a sound that makes you want to plop a small wooden box between the speakers, sit on it, and play along.