Rating: Four stars

West Australian-based drummer/composer Daniel Susnjar has recently returned from five years of performing and studying in the USA where he completed a Masters and Doctorate in Musical Arts at the Miami Frost School of Music. For his doctoral thesis Susnjar travelled to Peru to study Afro-Peruvian drumming and later assembled a group of top-shelf traditional and jazz players from the US, Australia, and Peru in New York to record this album of originals plus his arrangements of traditional pieces.

Joining Susnjar there are ten other musicians on these eight tracks. The opener Enciendete Candela (Light the Candle) begins with a traditional acoustic guitar in uptempo 12/8 time adding Susnjar’s inspired rhythmic and melody-cognisant drumming assisted by the cajon box drum. Trumpet and then sax soon join in to state the catchy theme and Laura Andrea Leguia’s soprano sax solo perfectly captures the joyous Festejo mood before a brilliant break-out percussion display from Susnjar.

A slow and sensual Lando rhythm in 6/4 time features a trumpet, tenor and trombone front line with Yuri Guarez’s acoustic guitar ornamentions and a stately solo from Alex Pope-Norris’s trumpet. This song’s title, Forte Pulse Torte, could translate as ‘Strong Rhythmic Cake’ which Susnjar says is an appropriate summation of his album and Afro-Peruvian music in general. Fearless Feel uses an unusual variety of instruments: trombonist Chad Bernstein blowing conch shells, acoustic guitar, cajon, and Susnjar scraping and shaking the quijada (donkey’s jawbone) in an uptempo Festejo rhythm.

 This unusual, imaginative album is an excellent introduction to a highly skilled exotic blend of jazz and Afro-Peruvian music.

Review by John McBeath