Guapapasea! (Quango, 2006)
Every musician has an homage song or album in them where a style or musical influence is courted and seduced, or just plain toyed with, but Gecko Turner’s debut album Guapapasea! is full out love affair. Beyond bedding, Spanish singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer Turner charms and ensnares the listener with twelve tracks of a captivating mix funk, jazz, rock, soul, samba and reggae.
Journalists in Spain were so stumped as to a specific style, they dubbed Turner’s riotous intermingling of genres “Afromeño.” Singing in English, Spanish and Portuguese, Turner inveigles the influences of North and South America, the Caribbean, Arabia, Africa and Spain to come together and place nice.
Opening the CD is Gecko Turner’s rendition of “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” Swinging it with a flute, some breezy funk I thought got lost somewhere in the 70s and a playful take on Dylan’s lyrics, Turner softens it with a reggae groove, but doesn’t loose the rhythm of the rhymes of the original.
Backed by the Afrobeatnik Orchestra with Ruben Dantas from the Afro-Cuban jazz scene, drummer Emilio Valdés, trumpeter Irapoan Freire from Caetano Veloso’s band and Gene Garcia, the lead singer of Inlavables, drive feel good pieces like “Limón En La Cabeza” and “Dime Que Te Quéa,” but it’s Garcia’s vocals on blues track “Dizzie,” a tribute to Dizzy Gilespie, set the piece on fire.
Beyond his prowess on guitar, drums and programming, Turner’s also a charmer, teasing and taunting with some roughed over vocals on “Sabes Quien Te Quiere” and the funky groove “How Come You Do Me Like You Do (Big Band Romeo).” None of the songs on Quapasea! are flash-in-the-pan summer songs; they are just off the beaten path and off the map.
“Rainbow Country” flirts with a reggae sound mixed with flamenco/Cuba sound and palmas in a cross-cultural nod to Bob Marley, but the chunky bass, jazz, Afro-Cuban “Monka Mongas” is a delight of the culito shaking variety. “45.000$ (Guapa Pasea),” part of the soundtrack to the Spanish movie entitled “Obaba,” with its Cuban/Caribbean feel counters guitar, bass and Turner’s vocals that reeks of coolness.
I’d be hard pressed to classify Guapapasea! other than to say it’s a stunning mix of merged genres, a provocative blend of soul and delicious juxtaposition. Cross-cultural and fusion have become the overused terms in the music industry, but Turner delivers the goods with something new where Turner’s talent and Afromeño becomes its own genre. Gecko Turner has turned out a collective homage to the global music scene and it’s a worthwhile groove to fall into.