Since his arrival in New Orleans in 2008, Havana-born percussionist Alexey Marti has become a part of the fabric of this city performing with many different musicians in any number of genres. A few that have utilized his skills on congas and the bata drum include drummer Herlin Riley, percussionist Bill Summers and pianist/vocalist Davell Crawford.
On Travesia, listeners not only get to hear Marti again leading his own band but also to further discover his skills as a composer and arranger. Unexpectedly, perhaps, the album opens quietly gentle with the wonderful piano of Oscar Rossignoli, who is magnificent throughout the session. Marti’s congas soon enter adding a certain passion to the tune’s memorable melody. Writing songs that feel like welcoming old friends is one of Marti’s many gifts.
As the title suggests, Marti’s “Gringo in Havana” perfectly blends the influences of his native Cuba and American jazz. Brent Rose picks up his tenor saxophone for this number that rhythmically dances between the two countries. When Marti’s congas exit for a few bars, “Gringo” starts swinging.
Julian Addison’s drums introduce “Bicycle” that Marti describes as an anthem to his adopted home, New Orleans. It’s a happy, energetic selection that reflects the spirit of its honoree and the kind of tune that inspires one to hum to and dance.
Marti selects the late great bassist Charlie Mingus’ “Moanin’” as one of the two non-originals on the disc. It features Pat Casey’s bass work and moves to the rhythms of the island nation as Marti’s inspired congas and Rossignola’s Cuban-style piano riffs together keep the drive alive.
Travesia ends as sentimentally as it began on “From My Window”—a soft breeze on an album full of powerful and often joyful gales.