Album Review of
Festive Interplay

Written by Joe Ross
November 22, 2021 - 12:07pm EST
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Festive Interplay, the fourth album from Angel Roman & Mambo Blue since 2003, is a cheerful, celebratory back-and-forth between 14 musicians who clearly demonstrate teamwork, chemistry and cohesion together. Life has taken Roman to Milwaukee, Boston, Miami, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Nashville and now Austin where he continues to cultivate compositional and performance skills.  While personnel of Mambo Blue have changed from album to album, Roman manages to always record and perform with talented top musicians who resonate with his self-penned, highly arranged music, at times quite intricate but always with an effervescent Latin groove. 

While Angel Roman plays bass, the rest of band’s members lend spicy flavorings of flute, trumpet, saxophones, trombone, piano, synthesizer, drums and percussion. While some of the tracks like “Who Knows Maybe Tomorrow” might’ve benefited from some hot guitar, that’s a minor criticism. The juxtaposition of the title cut, “Festive Interplay,” with the following tracks “Never Far” and “Not Sure So Sure” shows that a lot of thought has gone into the music’s flow and organization to give the collective group’s palette unique colors during the journey from beginning to end. Initially, he was (Not Sure) where that particular tune was headed, but when he’d finished composing it, he was happy with results (So Sure). For some studies in interesting Afro-Cuban and other rhythms, check out “Why Not,” “Collective Cha,” “The Quest,” and “Dreaming in Bomba,” a piece that honors his parents’ Puerto Rican heritage.

“Indi-Go-Go,” named for Roman’s son Indigo, also presents a different shade of blue. Perhaps that’s what makes Festive Interplay so charming. We hear Angel Roman & Mambo Blue play expressive and memorable music with a variety of jazzy tints from azure to sapphire, navy to cobalt. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)