Category Archives: Blog

REBEL TUMBAO – A Collaborative Call to Consciousness En Clave (Sacred Rhythm Music, 2015


Rebel\ ‘rebel 1a: to oppose those in authority who do not act in the best interest of humankind.

Tumbao\ toóm-‘Bah-o (Spanish) 1a: a syncopated bass and conga rhythm that makes you want to groove your ass off.

Musical Director, multi-percussionist, composer and spoken word artist, José Claussell fulfills a vision and breaches a new musical dimension and an organic concept of rhythmic diversity with his new CD, Rebel Tumbao.

Born with the gift of expressing rhythm and nurtured with a mind-blowing array of musical influences that span the global soundscape, José is a performer celebrated for his dynamic, spiritual and unique style of drumming and approach to music.

Like the current residence of the author of this review, the genesis of his musical journey can be traced back to his Brooklyn roots and a brownstone that was affectionately called “The mad house of music”.

In 1989 Eddie Palmieri invited José to join his band and catapulted him to the major eddie-palmieri
stages and clubs of the world, which led to recording and performance appearances with major artists such as, Ray Barretto, Richie Havens, Randy Weston, Donald Harrison, La India, Little Louie Vega, the Frank Sinatra Orchestra, Victor Manuelle, Tony Toni Tone, Chico Freeman, Hilton Ruiz and many more.

José has recorded seven productions with Mr. Palmieri, three of which received Grammy nominations as well as, Masterpiece, Palmieri’s collaboration with Tito Puente that won the award for best Salsa album in 2000. In conclusion, his musical mileage establishes a credibility we must tip our hats to.

Enter Rebel Tumbao – a culmination of a journey that began in 2002. The awareness invoking self-titled debut delivers a collaborative call to consciousness with 61ABfglclvLAFRO LATIN ROOTS MUSIC, where bilingual Spanish/Anglophonic spirit-filled Afro-Diasporic traditions blend with compatible chemistry.

The title sets up listeners with non-conformist creativity and unpredictable surprises that will sync with many, inter-generationally. The foundation of this unique sound is led by the masterful Claussell, who seems to have been reading the pulse of the sleeping giant, where a demand for a refreshing composite sound has been brewing.

The CD revisits a classic theme of blending respected genres from the firm foundation of old school jazz-tinged NuYoRicanized Salsa Dura (Cosmopolitized New York-based First thru third generation Puerto Ricans and their descendants that upgraded Afro-Cuban root music to match an urban aesthetic) with Jamaican Reggae vis a vis Bob Marley and gospelized soul-stirring R&B.

Each track is garnished with unexpected flavors from Boricua Isleño sonero lead coros(Island based Puerto Rican lead vocalist lead call and response), Doo Wop harmonizing and accents from diaspora Yoruba devotional chants to Colombian Cumbia licks and more.

From the outset and throughout all ten plus bonus tracks, the listener is prepared for a musical journey as lead vocalist, Toussaint’s husky, resonant tenor, delivers with a depth of soul and musical influences that range a vocal spectrum. In complementary fashion, on bilingual tracks, soneros (vocalists) Herman Olivera and Marco Bermudez deliver criollo(Creolized) authenticity supported by a genuine down home coro sabroso (flavorful / soulful chorus) calling for pro-active compassion to the human condition. Be encouraged to listen carefully to receive those heartfelt messages.

Diverse, seductive heartthrob montunos (soulful vamps) are, at times haunting with minor chords accented by fellow CD producer keyboardist, Matt Jenson’s in-the-pocket groove, Clausell’s precision timbale work, hyper-bongo and crisp Bata work by Anthony Carrillo, soul-stirring trombone work by Angel Subero Squantch and Scott Flynn. Let the lyrics push the listener to reflect.

Worthy of repetition, Claussell is a graduate of the exclusive school Maestro Eddie PalmieriHarlem-River-Drive-Featured-Image(1989-2013), who’s recordings of Harlem River Drive (1971), Vamonos Pa’l Monte (1971) and the earlier La Perfecta era signature style (1962-1968) influenced his musicality and served as his call to consciousness.

And that my friends is La Arma Secreta (The Secret Weapon) throughout the CD: Palmieri’s old school La Perfecta technique of La Clave aguanta’o (restrained / reigned in) where the natural tendency to speed up the meter is suppressed as if dragging the tempo. This deliberate slowing time and widening sonic spaces magically allows both dancer and the listener to savor every syncopated note and rhythmic lick. This effective and time-honored technique makes every track rock smooth and groove, honey coating the listener with its enduring harmonic, rhythmic essence. Don’t take my word for it. Test it yourself. (See link below).

While reflecting on the earthy, lyrical commentary citing the enigmas of the human condition, the listener receives inspiration, move, and groove. Indeed, even Mother Earth is listening and rejoicing.



rebel tumbao back 3










Thanks to  Tomas  Peña Founder / Editor of JazzDeLaPena  for inviting me to review this CD. I encourage everyone to visit his website to learn about some of the best musicians on the planet:





Reflections Prior to Spring 2015

Spring 2015 is 3  weeks away.   We all need a “reboot”………..In the Americas– especially Northeast USA, a “reboot” refresher is necessary!  Frigid winter weather seems to be unprecedent and is record breaking.  Climate change is real.That is another topic!  However, let’s get back to “reboot”……

yes — “reboot”  — I keep repeating it!  …..where are my /’ your reset buttons?  What plug do I pull out then replug in?  Why do I use tech analogies for us as humans?  LOL…..because we’re really plugged in and looking at our screens of all sizes!  and maybe an upgrade….personally and not your desktop / laotip / smart device!  We as humans need upgrades!


……….and reflect a minute or two.


Welcome to my “New” Website — on this day #1 Spring 2015

So, here it is…..after some cycles of time….incubating…….my “new” website…………….with thoughts, feelings, observations and sharing from my heart and head to you……….traveing in this life in the human form….. on this journey on Mother Earth….century 21……this time around…………..

Please visit periodically…..In fact, stay in contact and we’ll keep you informed.

Principal goal here is to help uplift human condition by building bridges and connecting “dots” to what seems to be viscerally polar opposites.  In other words, as we reflect on the intense current events of the day, “stuff” is going on that defies some of the values we hold as important for human wellbeing.

We are going to attempt to make some “sense” out of that to help you on your journey…………..

So, stay in contact and stay tuned……………….


Spring 2015….What should it Mean?


It is “spring 2015” — today at 6:45 pm EST…..”officially”….even as snow and damp cold is covering New York City!  So, how can we sync up with “well-being” as we ponder “spring 2015” under these interesting conditions?

Let’s focus on “rejuvenation” despite the unusual weather.  We all need to rejuvenate…..regenerate….like the trees and plants we’ll see budding in a couple of weeks.


Spring = growth period / new beginnings.  Color = green.  Ifa’s symbolic color…..where solar power is encoded in photosynthesizing green pigment.

Time to photo-synthesize….get your solar power going from within and from the sun and build up your “well-being”.


Stay tuned…… we “grow like vines” this spring!


Stay tuned…… we “grow like vines” this Spring!



Elio Villafranca’s Vision Comes Alive at Jazz at Lincoln Center

Performance Review by Antonio Mondesire
February 21, 2015

Pianist, composer, arranger Elio Villafranca and the Jass Syncopator’s presented Cinqué – The Suite of the Caribbean at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Appel Room before a warm and receptive audience.


The suite consisted of five movements dedicated to and inspired by Joseph Cinqué, the protagonist of La Amistad, a freedom fighter and force of nature whose journey of self-discovery was rooted in the idea, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Consistent with Yoruba wisdom, Villafranca’s powerful sonic-art honored the ancestors and the branches and roots of our collective ancestral tree.

Essentially, the repertoire was a musical journey in five parts:

Part 1: Cinque / The Capture / Troubled Waters.

Part II: Maluagda / La Burl de Los Congos / Madre Agua (Yaya Baluande).

Part III: Indigo / Mesi Bondye.

Part IV: The Night at Bois Caiman / Burn Down the Fields.

Part V: Comparsa.

The movements represented a diverse range of colors, textures, rhythms, melodic call and response and solos accented by traditional dance.

Highlights included Jon Faddis’s riveting brass acumen; consistent, tasteful exchanges between the pianist and his team of polished musicians; trombonist/conch/shell player Steve Turre’s unparalleled swing and crowd pleasing harmonics; the tasteful inclusion of traditional Puerto Rican rhythms (Bomba Xica), the integration of recorded Kongo chants, a sweet rendition of the tune, “Mesi Bondye” by banjo player, Leila Mc Calla and the closing comparsa (Cuban Carnival swing with classic chorus) as dancer Liethis Y Hechavarria –
tap danced with wood block sandals playing 2-3 beat of the clave.

Jonathan “JBlak” Troncoso – need to see / hear more of his pan Afro-Caribe virtuousity with some featured solos….as the old Kongos would say “somos. o no somos” /” are we or are we not”.

Prior to the concert, Ben Young of Swing University conducted an interesting and informative pre-concert discussion and touched on Elio Villafranca’s geo-historic background in context to the Caribbean Basin of island nations. It is here that a brief description of the banjo used in Leyla McCalla’s work would have been helpful.

To conclude, Elio Villafranca and the Jass Syncopators are lined up for “Nsambi Mpugu’s” (God Almighty’s) blessings as he builds upon the high standard that he has set for himself. We respectfully watch his growth. Bacheche! (excellent in Kongo).

Personnel: Elio Villafranca – Musical Director > piano and Guataca; Jon Faddis – trumpet; Leyla McCalla – cello/banjo/ vocal; Vincent Herring – alto sax/flute/clarinet: Steve Turre – trombone and multiple conch shells; Greg Tardy – tenor sax/clarinet; Michele Wright –clarinet; Gregg August – bass; and assorted percussion; Jonathan “JBlak”Troncoso – percussion: Liethis Y Hechavarria – dancer.

Elio Villafranca:

Jazz at Lincoln Center: