JAZZ & BLUES MAGAZINE
by Ron Weinstock
MIGUEL ESPINOZA FLAMENCO FUSION
MOUNTAIN RIVER MUSIC
Formed in 2018, Denver’s Miguel Espinoza Flamenco Fusion fuses jazz, flamenco, Cuban and classical Indian musical forms into a unique and exhilarating sound. Guitarist Espinoza has brought together Dianne Betkowski on cello, Lynn Baker on sax, Randy Hoepker on bass, and Andy Skellenger on Indian tabla and Spanish Cajon. Mario Moreno on timbales, congas, and bongo appears on one of the six tracks on this disc. There is plenty to enchant a listener with Espinoza’s highly charged, rhythmic flamenco guitar with the contrast of both Baker’s clarinet-like soprano sax
and Betkowski’s vibrant cello pushed along by Skellenger’s percussion. At the same time, Hoepker’s bass is an anchor. The quintet negotiates changes in tempo and texture throughout, starting with the delights of “Gnossienne” and the spirited interplay between Espinoza and Betkowski for “Bulerias Barrocas.” “Opening “Sad,” Betkowski’s cello lends a solemn tone in the manner of a Cantorial chant. The leader’s guitar picks up the tempo, but her cello maintains a sober atmosphere before Baker’s soprano brightens the mood.
Skellenger is showcased on the spirited title track. “Veneta” is a joyful recording with inspired solo and ensemble playing. It left this listener wishing there were more than 35 minutes of music and looking forward to more of their musical fusion.