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Jazz Rock/Fusion • Peru

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Don Gato biography
DON GATO is one of the most prominent jazz-rock bands in Peru nowadays. Founded in 2003 and led by guitarist Antonio ESTEBAN, the band underwent some line-up changes (at some point, including two guitarists) before getting to the quartet that recorded and released the debut album "íZas!" in 2005. Before all this, back in the 70s, Antonio ESTEBAN had played a relevant role in the renewed (yet unstable) world of rock and fusion that was developing in Peru: he was a member of various groups and musical associations before moving to the USA, where he lived for a very long time. Back in Peru, DON GATO was born mainly as a vehicle for his musical vision in the mature phase of his life, sharing his vision with younger musicians.

The group made its professional debut under the patronage of the Spanish Embassy in Peru, through its Cultural Center (CCE), an organization that promotes the arts. Together with a growing original repertoire, DON GATO also included occasionally some compositions by McCoy Tyner, Paul Desmond, John Coltrane and John McLaughlin in the live setlists. Straying away from conventional jazz, DON GATO soon forged a dynamic sort of jazz-fusion very related to the colors of Latin-jazz, bossanova and Peru's coast folklore: also including elements of psychedelic rock and progressive in the mix, the improvised solos that developed the melodic bases were unmistakably jazz-based. This is what we find in the "íZas!" album, a very powerful item that got good reviews from the local music press as well as some foreign e-zines. Not too long after the album's release, ESTEBAN felt that he needed to take the next step into his ongoing musical evolution, especially since he felt that his own playing style had not been properly manifested in the album. He wanted more room to express his full potential of energy and colorfulness on the guitar, so in the second half of 2006 he dissolved the quartet and refurbished DON GATO as a power-trio, with different partners (although the quartet's drummer hung on for a while). In this way, the band's sound shifted to a more explosive trend, with more improvisational input and a bigger implementation of psychedelic flavors, and of course, an augmented dynamics of the guitar input since it doesn't have to alternate the spotlight with the keyboard anymore. This also implied a decrease of the fusion element. This is the sort of thing that should be expected from their sophomore album, on the works since 2007.

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4.00 | 2 ratings

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 íZas! by DON GATO album cover Studio Album, 2005
4.00 | 2 ratings

Don Gato Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars This Peruvian instrumental quartet led by Antonio Esteban, a veteran guitarist who used to be very active in the underground fusion and psychedelic rock scene in Lima back in the 70s, released this beautiful album íZas! in 2005. The material comprised here features well-ordained interactions among the musicians, clean melodies and elegant solos (by both guitar and synth); it is also noticeable that the bass player has room for soloing in many tracks, a labor he manages quite proficiently. The overall sound offers a balanced mixture of melodic jazz-rock and Latin-jazz, in this way setting a polished fusionesque vibe. At times, you can tell that some guitar leads bear some tendency toward old- fashioned psychedelic rock and/or melodic hard rock: Esteban's style is clearly based on influences from Santana and McLaughlin. There are also times when the keyboard layers and the occasional mood shifts state a certain progressive vibe in the overall sound. The band's ideology is open to eclecticism but pretty obviously this is a jazz-rock effort. The opener 'Oasis' starts with a soft 3/4 motif led by soaring, simple guitar lines: the middle section is a nice, catchy exercise on funk-instilled fusion, while the coda is a brief reprise of the first motif. Sometimes I feel like this track is a bit underdeveloped, but luckily, this sensation is only rare whenever I listen to this album. 'Cleo' sets the initial foundations for the development of the bossanova element within the band's scheme - the elaboration of some funky cadences in the rhythmic structure allows the bass to take advantage of some soloing space. The bossanova thing will reappear quite soon in 'Lipstick X-Change', with a more enthusiastic cadence fed by the addition of subtle Flamenco-jazz flavors. Sandwiched between the two is one of the album's highlights - 'Manongo'. This lovely track starts with a very academic classical guitar intro, and then the whole ensemble gets in and states a magical portrait of Peruvian Coast folklore. The candid colors and the catchy 6/8 rhythms flow together with exquisite ease. 'íTumbes, Tumbes!' is yet another peak, with its heavily charged Latin-jazz condiments alternating so well with a rocking mid section (featuring a superb synth solo, prog style indeed). This track exemplifies the kind of development in variation and contrast that I feel track 1 was partially missing. 'Super X' finds the band once again exploring the peculiar moods of bossanova, this time with an added touch of Flor de Luna-era Santana: similarities can be traced with Chile's Evoluciˇn and the softer side of late 70s Chick Corea. 'Super X' bears a moderately aggressive approach to funk-rock: the keyboard soloing leans more toward the progressive side of things, while the guitar leads display a psychedelic take. Some funny tricks on the 6-string take a hint from The Ventures' surf rock'n'roll. The momentum created by this piece is prolongued by the following one, 'Amiga', a track that starts on a blues-rock mode, then sets a Latin-jazz interlude that forms the basis for the exciting jazz-rock section that fills the track's last 4 minutes. So far, tracks 3, 5, 7 & 8 have made the best of this album, but there's still more fun in store for the listener with 'Talk Spirit, Walk Spirit', an old jazz classic penned by McCoy Tyner (former pianist for John Coltrane's band before going solo). Far from walking on the road of transcription, the group decided to give the original music a Latin-tinged twist regarding both swing and ambience. This colorful ending feels more than appropriate for such a colorful album - "íZas!" is a very captivating album that signals Don Gato as a creative force from Peru's renewed jazz scene.
Thanks to Cesar Inca for the artist addition.

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