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Martin Bejerano - #CubanAmerican (Figgland)

26 May 2022

For his fourth album #CubanAmerican, Miami pianist Martin Bejerano continues his quest to infuse his father’s Cuban heritage with the North American jazz that’s been his bread and butter as a sideman to Roy Haynes and Russell Malone. While the mixture of Latin rhythms and bop musicianship has, of course, been around since Dizzy Gillespie (if not before), Bejerano strives hard to find his own path – not only through his playing, but from his arrangements as well.

For example, “Lonely Planet” puts sweeping piano riffs over danceable rhythms, but deliberately grounds the tune by including almost ambient synth sounds that accent the bottom. The energy-spewing “Yo No Bailo” rides a swirling tornado of a piano lick that somehow still leaves room for bassist Edward Perez to solo with abandon. “Mi Cafetal,” which guest-stars singer *Roxana Amed,” becomes a rousing, ultra-melodic Latin/alt.pop jazz fantasy. Both “Ay Cosita Linda (A Gringo Fantasy)” and “B. Radley (Electro MIDI Shred Remix)” deftly mix electronica into the Latin jazz sounds, including a heavy glitch influence.

Sometimes, however, Bejerano plays it more traditionally, as the Bill Evans-esque trio work on the bopping “Doxy” and the beautiful “You’ve Changed,” while the title track is like every great Afro-Cuban jazz piano tune you’ve ever heard distilled into one. Clearly Bejerano is ready for his turn in the spotlight, whether he’s playing it cool or shredding the envelope.