Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., Aug. 21, 2015
What Charanga Cakewalk mago Michael Ramos did for Gina Chavez's Album of the Year this spring (honored) and last (released) should happen to El Tule. Austin's other Latin big band alongside Grupo Fantasma, these wily eight meet those Grammy-winners halfway between their brass blast and offshoot Brownout's six-string slash. A Santana-esque lead details "Repique Mi Guaguanco," but axe grinders John Dell and Stephen Selvey hardly pause there, searing the succeeding "Pulga 280" with a fire pit solo. Electro cumbias, hombre, call the bomberos. Fourth disc Cuatro effortlessly bangs out such modern burners, including opener "Mira Como Baila," chanting a litany of Latinas over a spidery rhythm of drums and percussion (Michael Penic), timbales (Yonnel Augustin), and congas (Mateo Turner). The trumpet/trombone tandem of Joseph Ledesma and Max Garza trades jet fuel with the guitarists, all powered by the boom of Dell's Spanish vocals. "Mover" follows suit, and "Escucha Me" parties like Miami's South Beach. After a trio of stellar Hecho in Austin EPs, Cuatro – eight songs in 35 minutes – queues El Tule as Austin's next Latin breakout waiting for its stars to align.