Thursday, May 1, 2008

Grupo Fantasma appreciation

(Performing Bacalao Con Pan at the Chicago Summer Dance Series, features Johnny Lopez on the drums. Uploaded by Elelectric).

Although this video was thrown up last August. The '12 of this storming tune just dropped a few weeks ago on Adrian Gibson's Freestyle Records.

Can't get enough of their stuff. The Bacalao joint above alone is so Raw, Pure, so damn Heavy, Dance-floor shut down material. Prince describes these Texans as "real musicians playing real music" and there's no other way of describing what these guys are about, the music they produce and the magnitude of mind-blowing musicianship on display throughout their releases and plethora of live shows. Their new album "Sonidos Gold" drops on the 17th June, featuring Maceo Parker amongst a cast of music greats. Go out and cop it. In the meantime check out some of the awesome, mighty, very cool tunes from their fourth studio album over at the Fantasmics space.

This is their My Space bio:

"Known as the funkiest, finest and hardest working latin orchestra to come of the United States in the last decade, Grupo Fantasma's trademark sound has translated comprehensively on their new album Sonidos Gold - it's an incredible and animated performance interwoven with mature and intelligent songwriting that is equally at home with the classic 1960s Fania All-Stars sound AND the progressive benchmark set by artists such as Manu Chao. Guided by the deeply rooted traditions of cumbia, salsa, funk, and pyschedelia this masterful ensemble band has forged a fresh new standard of excellence in latin music.

Special guests on the album include legendary saxophonist Maceo Parker, Fania All-Stars pianist and arranger Larry Harlow, trombonist Greg Boyer (Prince, Parliament Funkadelic), and a bonus track/remix by producer Toy Hernandez (Control Machete, Juanes, Alejandro Sanz). Recording and mixing on the album was executed at Stuart Sullivan's Wire Recording facility in Austin, responsible for notable projects by Sublime, Meat Puppets, and Butthole Surfers.

There is no doubt that Sonidos Gold will be remembered as an instant and timeless classic. From the epic and head bobbing entrance of "El Sabio" to the textural violin and peyote-laden conlusion of "Perso Fra i Mesquites" the record's dozen tracks are as pertinent to the past as they will be influential on the future.

"It's the definitive Grupo Fantasma album, the one we've wanted to make since the beginning" declares Adrian Quesada, one of the band's guitarists, co-founders and head producer. "The sound is organic, live, while sonically it's big and roomy with psychedelic and cinematic undertones. It pays homage to the forefathers of this music yet is forward thinking at the same time." When asked about working and recording with Larry Harlow and Maceo Parker, Quesada states "These guys are musical institutions. When you feel like maybe you're losing steam and someone like Larry or Maceo is schooling you and stressing the importance of carrying the torch, you can't help but feel re-energized and part of a larger, more important picture in the scheme of things."

The momentum of an enormous 2007 has clearly set the stage for another fruitful year for Grupo Fantasma. From their critically acclaimed performances with Prince in London this past August (their first trip overseas playing in front of 20,000 people) to a national airing on PBS's "Austin City Limits," the band continues to expand their musical horizons and deliver earth-shattering live shows. Other significant accomplishments include NPR features on Latino USA and Song of the Day, recording of a BBC Radio session at the infamous Maide Valle Studio in London, the Fantasma horn section performing at clubs and festivals with indie-rock stalwarts Spoon, licensing of albums for distribution in Europe, and several guest spots on international releases. This spring and summer will see them performing at highly regarded events such as New Orleans Jazz Fest, Bonnaroo and Montreal Jazz Fest.

The endorsement from Prince was a huge highlight for the members of Grupo Fantasma. Jose Galeano, the band's elder statesman (and nephew of the infamous percussionist "Chepito" from the original Santana band) was especially moved by the experience. "Prince's seal of approval sends a message that the band's music and performances are of the highest quality, and that we can conquer anything we put our minds to. It was quite an accomplishment. Even if the masses don't know it yet, he believes that we kick some serious ass!" The band's relationship with the legendary artist began with a two-month Thursday night stint at the musical giant's Las Vegas nightclub 3121 and a hip-shaking performance at his mega-celeb filled Golden Globes after party. Fantasma opened for Prince in front of 8,000 fans in Miami, Florida and served as his backup band at several high profile events including the CBS Superbowl Bash in South Beach, the ALMA Awards (aired on ABC) and an exclusive private party in their hometown of Austin, Texas.

"The only other band I've seen get that kind of audience reaction was the Ramones" confesses Austin Chronicle and Village Voice music critic Jim Caliguiri. "With all of their releases the band has become even more adventurous - mixing styles in ways that are unexpected but ruled by the groove. This group of enthusiastic youngsters has grown into a monstrous and masterful ensemble that has sold more than 25,000 discs independently. Their chops and confidence continue to grow but the raw, boisterous attitude remains. The band successfully obliterates the clich├ęs that often plague the current music market, all the while keeping their feet firmly planted in the traditions that they love and deeply respect."

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