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The Graham Album Review #2176

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Bobby Rozario: Spellbound

(Independent release, as broadcast on WVIA-FM 11/22/2023)

Though they are not quite as common as they used to be, jazz-rock fusion guitarist releases are not hard to find. This week, we have one with a rather wide-range of styles from a guitarist with an interesting background. He is Bobby Rozario and his new album, his second, is called Spellbound.

Bobby Rozario describes himself as an American of Indian/Brazilian and Portuguese decent. His mother was a singer of classical Indian music, and his father a drummer playing Brazilian music. He grew up performing with his parents and in the early 1990s went to India to study with notable musicians including Ustad Nasir Khan. As a guitarist, Rozario has integrated some of that Indian influence into a jazz-rock and blues fusion. Since then he has been performing and touring with Indian musicians in their appearances in the US, and his first album, called Rudra reflected those influences.

For the new album, Spellbound, recorded over a three-year period from 2019 to 2022, before and after the pandemic, Rozario cast his stylistic net rather wider. The album features a lot of Latin American influence, some African sounds, and some jam-band rock guitar shredding. The album is mostly instrumental, but there are guest vocalists giving authenticity to the West African and Latin American sounds. He assembled an impressive roster of supporting musicians, including drummers Dennis Chambers and Robby Ameen, Puerto Rican jazz pianist Edsel Gomez, jazz organist Radam Schwartz, and bassists James Genus and Gary Grainger, from the jazz and rock worlds respectively. With the prominence of the Latin influence and Rozarios’ fast-fluid guitar work, one can be reminded of Carlos Santana, when the latter does his instrumental fusion tracks.

Opening the generous 64-minute album is Peace Pilgrim showing the guitarist’s rockier side. The tune is taken at a rather frenetic pace, with Rozario shredding away on his guitar. <<>>

The title track, Spellbound is probably the most interesting on the album. There’s a Santana style groove to which is added West African style vocals of Ismael Kouyate. <<>>

With something of a salsa beat is the track called Carmen’s Lover, with Edsel Gomez’ piano giving an authenticity to the Latin texture. <<>>

While most of this album keeps at a high energy level, a piece called Heal Me is notably laid back, Radam Schwartz guests on the organ along with trumpet man Tim Ouimette. <<>>

A great Salsa-influenced track is called Gi Tana with the vocals of Chris Alfinez and Jose Pepito Gomez. <<>> Edsel Gomez gets a chance for an energetic piano solo. <<>>

A track called Freedom is a sort of keyed up Santana-style jam, with some interesting textures with the vocals. the creative percussion and the rhythmic shifts. <<>>

Though Rozario’s previous album was called Rudra. The new album has a track called Rudra which brings a little of Rozario’s Indian influence into the mix still with a good helping of Latin American. <<>>

The album ends with a tune called Stronger Together which while it is not that great as composition, features some interesting instrumental and stylistic textures. <<>>

Spellbound, the new album by mult-ethnic guitarist Bobby Rozario is another worthwhile addition to the roster of recent jazz-rock fusion guitarist albums, such as we have reviewed in this series by Kingsley Durant, Jeff Skunk Baxter, Aaron Lebos, Andrew Synowiec, and Allen Hinds to name a few. Rozario brings an interesting mix of influences to his project, along with his hot guitar playing. The album is not particularly strong on melodic content, but it makes up for it in the jam-band aspect with the strong contributions from the guest players, including percussionist Camilo Molina, Nii Star and Mauricio Herrera. Fans of Santana will find some familiar musical traits, in both the music textures and guitar style.

Our grade for audio quality is an A-minus. The instrumental mix has things in the right proportions, but as usual, there is too much volume compression, so the dynamics of the performance are undermined.

With his new album Spellbound Bobby Rozario joins the ranks of the creative guitarists with impressive solo albums.

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This page last updated November 27, 2023