Troker – Crimen Sonoro (2014)

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Troker thrives on its outlaw jazz image and its latest album Crimen Sonoro even translates to “crime sound” in English. The electric and eclectic sextet from Guadalajara aren’t different from other jazz fusion acts just to be that way, they’re a fresh fusion of Yankee rock-jazz and styles of music native to Mexico.

The rhythm section of Samo González (bass and contrabass) and Frankie Mares (drums) are stubbornly funky, as Christian Jiménez’s crunchy keyboards brings both jazz and metal elements, while DJ Zero’s’ turntables inject hip-hop to the mix. The dual horns of Arturo “Tiburón” Santillanes (saxophone) and Gil (trumpet) are mostly responsible for the mariachi layer, and collectively, Troker puts it all together with original songs that are provocative, forceful and anything but mundane. Think of them as a south-of-the-border hybrid of Medeski, Martin and Wood, and the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey.

Their fourth long player Crimen Sonoro came out on November 11, 2014, and it sets up this band nicely for international notice, in particular, in the USA. Don’t let the mariachi stylings conjure up any of the usual stereotypes, it’s a whole different animal in Troker’s hands.

Take, for instance the festive horns amidst a dark metal growl on “Stranger.” Darting down unpredictable paths as it maintains the intensity, the song finds the perfect meeting spot for these seemingly incompatible styles. The band unveils even more facets of themselves for “Principe Charro”: a little electronica mixes in with the mariachi over tough beats. Unexpectedly, an interlude breaks open that finds Gil mixing it up with a sampled version of himself from DJ Zero’s turntables alongside González’s deeply funky bass.

The funk on “Tequila Death” is nice and crunchy thanks to a hard driving rhythm section and that righteous clavinet sound. A solo is even crafted out of a Spanish count-off on the turntables. “Femme Fatal” is Troker’s idea of a softer tune, but it’s hardly a ballad. It’s got a film noire/acid jazz vibe where the horns add a boss RnB flavor. “Vengador” brandishes a lot of the interesting complexities of jazz, including drums and bass that invades the spaces between the beats, a runaway electric piano solo and solid-state trumpet/sax lines that takes the song through dark tunnels and open fields.

Muscular and brainy, this tight little band shows how to mine the culturally rich tradition of Mexican music and work it ingeniously into fusion jazz on Crimen Sonoro. Troker represents a new chapter in that tradition that should get more attention on either side of the Rio Grande.

Visit Troker’s website for more info.

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