With school just starting, things have been busy in these parts, but that hasn't kept me from listening to The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow, the debut album from saxophonist Cochemea Gastelum. Gastelum's name is probably not one that you recognize unless you read through the small print in liner notes, but his sax playing has almost certainly entered your ears if you listen to much of the music that I post up here in Sunday Soul, and in general. While on this album he's stepped up front and center, Gastelum also plays in the horn section of the retro-soul playing Dap-Kings (as well as their alter ego, the Budos Band) and the retro-afrobeat playing Antibalas (who just released their album Who Is This America?). Both of these positions factor into the sounds you'll hear on this new solo album, yet he takes the ten instrumentals contained on it beyond those two borders.
The album opens with Dark City (which you can download below), a song that pulls upon his Antibalas heritage yet also brings tones of Ethiopian jazz musician Mulatu Astatke. It's a slow burning number filled with intrigue that eases you into the album. From there, Gastelum reminds us of his other day job and switches to a flute driven soul number (flutes show up refreshingly often on the album) that sounds more Dap-Kingish in the album's theme song, Arrow's Theme. But before the listener can settle into a predictable groove, Carlito! brings some Latin flair pulled right from the pages of bugaloo. You're So Good To Me, the fourth track continues in the Latin vein, with a Carlos Santana groove funk working that slows down and chills.
These first three or four songs present the main ingredients of the album that are mixed in differing proportions resulting in an album of instrumentals that are entertainingly diverse enough to keep your attention from beginning to end. Another stand out that hooks me is No Goodbyes, a number that pulls down some Roy Ayers inspiration, specifically from his experimental forays in the late 70's (check out the Virgin Ubiquity recordings for what I'm talking about). All of the tracks weigh in around four minutes or less, and the variety of sounds and textures here keeps things moving along, with the album starting over before you know it.
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