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Six Degrees (Distributed by Ryko Distribution)


1. Just a Dream
2. Agua
3. Dear Neven
4. Cumbé
5. Tengo Sed
6. Óya
7. Olájopé
8. Buscamé
9. Myths & Realities

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  Batidos album cover
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  Batidos photo
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Green Galactic
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(August, Los Angeles) DJ and producer Ron Trent and Groove Collective reedman Jay Rodriguez know as well as anyone that Latin music is made for dancing. But they’re also New Yorkers, and they know that on humid summer nights in the city, the last thing you need is something to help you sweat. On Olájopé, the Six Degrees debut from their new group Batidos, (which is a Latin American milkshake,) Trent and Rodriguez offer a sensual blend of cool grooves and jazzy elegance – and for those hardy souls undeterred by the heat, a chance to dance to some very old Afro-Cuban rhythms in very contemporary arrangements.

The Batidos recipe starts with Ron Trent’s deep house/techno drum programming, percussion and keyboard playing and Jay Rodriguez’s trademark sax/flute/clarinet playing. Add a generous portion of piano, courtesy of Cuba’s legendary Grammy-winning Chucho Valdes and percussion from Latin all-star Eddie Bobé, and you’ve got the basic ingredients of Olájopé. Along the way Batidos mixes in a wide variety of musical flavors, from the Fania All-Stars to Cal Tjader to ambient electronica. They’ve even managed to find common ground between old Latin pop and classic disco – check out the chattering rhythms, Chucho Valdés’ flowing piano riffs and the punctuating horns on the song "Tengo Sed." It’s an unlikely combination, but that’s exactly what fans of Trent and Rodriguez have come to expect from them.

Batidos served notice that something was brewing in the Trent/Rodriguez kitchen when their song "Esta Osquiridad" appeared on Six Degrees’ Traveler 01 compilation. Restrained but still full of Latin pasión, it was an excellent example of the Batidos sound. Jay Rodriguez has been one of the leaders of the Groove Collective, who were a "jam band" before that term was ever coined. For over a decade, this merry band of New York-based musicians has played its own irresistible blend of Latin, funk, jazz, rock, and world music. Rodriguez has also been in demand as a sideman, playing with Prince, the late Tito Puente, and Wu-Tang Clan, among others. Jay Rodriguez and Chucho Valdés collaborated on a recent Groove Collective recording, setting the stage for the current Batidos project.

Trent, originally from Chicago, became a part of that city’s groundbreaking house music movement while barely a teenager. His first record, Altered States, made the 15-year old Trent a household name – or at least, a "house" name – and at the end of the ‘80s he was developing a distinctive sound in his DJ stints that included a lot of old soul and disco music. He founded Prescription Records in 1993, and since moving to New York, Trent has become resident DJ at Giant Step and has continued to record under his name as well as the name USG (Urban Sound Gallery).

Olájopé wastes no time in staking a claim to a wide musical territory. On the opening track, "Just A Dream," Batidos immediately introduces the house beats that Ron Trent has become famous for. But the song also echoes the sounds of West African Yoruba music, both in its insistent use of the bell and Jay Rodriguez’s half-sung, half-chanted chorus. His sax lurks in the background of the chorus, emerging for a tasty solo halfway through the song and giving a good preview of the album’s accessible mix of Latin, jazz, and dance music. The Yoruba influence is evident throughout Olájopé, not just in some of the titles ("Oya," for example, is named for one of the most important Yoruba and santeria deities), but also in the Afro-Columbian rhythms that propel much of the album. Perhaps nowhere is this more obvious than in "Cumbe," a largely unplugged song played on pre-Columbian woodwind instruments, where the old West African roots of the music are clearly audible. This is a childhood melody Jay’s mother used to sing to him.

The urban side of Batidos comes to the fore in "Tengo Sed (The Batidos Song)," which includes sounds of the city streets as well as the incomparable piano playing of Chucho Valdés and singer Eddie Bobé. A smoother, lighter sound colors songs like "Buscamé," where multiple layers of muted percussion support wisps of voice and Rodriguez’s stylish sax. Yet another incarnation of the Batidos sound ends the record: "Myths & Realities" is the album’s chill-out finale, using keyboards and bass clarinet to create a nocturnal backdrop for some of Rodriguez’s most lyrical playing.

The most impressive part of Olájopé might just be the least noticeable: the blend of sequenced or programmed drums and traditional Afro-Cuban percussion is so organic and convincing that it’s difficult to tell where one leaves off and the other begins. It’s like a first-rate blended drink, where all the ingredients combine to create a single rich and complex flavor. And in the case of Batidos, it’s an easily acquired taste.

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