Despite their encyclopedic knowledge of Latin forms and rhythms, the most refreshing aspect of this CD is the band's basic sound. The combination of Paul Carlon's, rich, buttery tenor with Pete Smith's mellow fingerstyle acoustic guitar is somehow both surprising and familiar. On 'Manna' they sound a bit like an updated Getz and Gilberto, and Smith's acoustic imparts a folkish, traditional feel to 'A Dança dos Santos' - the tune’s twisted little Monk-ish 5/4 coda at the end is a pleasantly unexpected jolt. Also surprising is drummer William ‘Beaver’ Bausch's 'Absurdities and Atrocities'. This lovely waltz definitely has the Sephardic tinge - if you played this tune for me in a blindfold test, I would guess it was something on the Tzadik label. The CD’s other euro-centric track, "Toreja Kulo," taps into the Spanish flamenco tradition, adding the impressively percussive footwork of dancer Max Pollak to the mix. Throughout, Bausch’s ultra-prodigious drumset skills are applied in the most musical and sensitive ways, though he occasionally sounds like he’s employing an extra limb - or two. I particularly enjoyed the way he toyed with different tempos, time signatures, and rhythmic feels on the multi-sectioned burner "Clave 66."
Grupo los Santos is a strikingly cohesive Latin jazz unit with a distinctive sound. While firmly rooted in the folkloric traditions of Latin music worldwide, they have an irrepressible urge to explore and experiment - and this is what makes "Lo Que Somos Lo Que Sea" a totally rewarding listen. Highly recommended.