Grupo Fantasma

Record review

Texas Platters

Grupo Fantasma

Comes Alive (Aire Sol)

It's been nothing but ascension for Grupo Fantasma since their self-released, eponymous 2001 debut. That turned ears, but 2004's Movimiento Popular rightfully earned this Latin big band Top 10 accolades and Austin Music Awards. On stage, the local groove collective hits like a ton of bricks, so earlier this March, Advanced Mirco Devices' custom recording rig captured all the harmonic magic flowing from Antone's storied stage. Three more things give Comes Alive its sabor grande. First, songwriting: Nearly all the baker's dozen tracks are original, blending seamlessly with "Cocinando," by the late, great conguero and bandleader Ray "King of the Hard Hands" Barretto. Second, the well-paced, bouncy songs pour with pure melodic energy, "Mentiras" into "Chocolate," and the one-two punch of "Dos Regalitos" into "Saca La Basura." Last, Grupo Fantasma's chops shine, free and in sync. And this ain't a prog trio, but an 11-pistoned Latino funk machine whose horns evoke like Nelson Riddle conceived in Spanish Harlem. What's more – save for the delicious, Santana-inspired rhythmic workout of "Rico Tumbao" – it's as if the band's tank remains full after each generous throttling. Get it, spin it, cherish it. Comes Alive is easily one of the finest live albums to come out of the ATX.


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