by: Barbara Porto
You think Detroit, you think cold, automated factories and if you're music savvy, you think techno. Mention Florida and you think beaches, sun-worshipers and Afro-Latin music. In 2002 John Beltran relocated from cold Lansing, outside Detroit, Michigan to Florida, the Sunshine State. It is said that "Life Imitates Art." John's move confirms the rule.
Sun Gypsy (Ubiquity records) is the seventh album in John Beltran's solid and eclectic career. It completes his transition, which started with Americano (Exceptional, 2002), from strictly electronic, techno and IDM-oriented music to a more lively and worldly sound. The main influences in John's new sound are Brazilian artists Djavan, Jorge Ben and European producers like Jazzanova and Nicola Conte among others. Every track in Sun Gypsy blends house, samba and latin jazz rhythms, layering electronic keyboards and strings with live-sounding latin percussion and samba/bateria instruments such as cuica, apito and agogo. The result is an album that pulses with lively beats and organic sounds-- an album that will make you feel good and smile, either if you're shaking on a crowded dance floor or relaxing in the tranquility of your home.
Here's the forecast:
You press play. You hear waves and seagulls. No, it is not a new-age relaxation CD-- and you will soon find out when the bossa nova style keyboard and horns kick in. It is "Captiva Con Tigo" ("Captive with You"), which will make you feel like it's early morning and you're watching the sunrise on the beach.
From then on the album acquires a more lively, uptempofeel to it, starting with the modern samba "Kiana". "Felicidad Nova" ("New Happiness") is a house tune infused with samba and nu-jazz. Track 4 is "La Nueva," top-quality latin jazz tune which includes a visceral Santana-style guitar solo. We come to high noon with "Bota Foga", a track named after Rio de Janeiro's district and soccer team Botafogo, which coincidentally or not, depending on John's knowledge of Portuguese, also means "Sets on Fire." It sets the stage for jazz act "Dashiki" which adds house tempo and loungy vibes and horns to incredible drum rolls. Fiery indeed. The following track is a "Fragile" a Sting (!) cover that has little in common with the rest of the album except for the Conga and Cuica that adds a Latin feel to the song: Yes, Latin Sting. And it actually works! After this rather peculiar moment, the Sun Gypsy announces : "Let's go straight to Bahia where the samba was born. Well, where Brazil was born." What you hear is a Berimbau call followed by heavy samba drumming. The track title is "Sun Musica" --which also works as a quick description for the unique style of this album. After a brief "Interlude" the sun sets-- and the album closes-- with chilled-out "Heaven and Earth" the B-side to the album's first single, "Felicidad Nova".
Forecast of the California winter? SUNNY. Enjoy.