Street Signs

Ozomatli's new CD to be released on June 22

Published on LatinoLA: June 4, 2004

Street Signs

Ozomatli ? LA's beloved Afro-Latin-and-beyond style mashers ? return with their first full-length studio album in three years, Street Signs, to be released June 22nd on Concord Records.

Street Signs bears a new Middle Eastern influence, played out in typical Ozo style, by mixing it into their trademark blend of hip hop and Latin styles. The album also shows guitarist Raul Pacheco assuming a greater role as vocalist. A significant presence on Ozomatli's previous two full-length releases, Raul sings lead on three of Street Signs' thirteen tracks.

When the band?s original MC Chali 2na (now of Jurassic 5) returns to take center stage on "Who's To Blame," he drops rhymes about "presidential motorcades" and "Yakuza tattoos" over a reedy Gnawa trance session complete with tablas and hand-claps. "Believe," the album's uplifting opener that looks for hope in destruction, features Veteran Moroccan sintir master Hassan Hakmoun, who's joined by the acclaimed French-Jewish gypsy violinists Les Yeux Noir and The Prague Symphony (yes, the Prague Symphony).

Street Signs urban globe-trots were encouraged by Ozo's new label, Concord Records, who gave them total creative freedom to follow their songs wherever they went. "Concord just seemed happy to let us go off and do our thing," says horn player and vocalist Asdrubal Sierra, adding, "There's a real sense of acceptance of what we do. Plus, I'm really honored to be on the same label as Eddie Palmieri. He's my idol."

The band invited Palmieri, the legendary Latin jazz and salsa pianist, to play on "Nadie Te Tira," where his gorgeous solo piano lines set off a round of horn-blasted salsa fusion. Along with Palmieri, Hakmoun, Les Yeux Noir, Chali 2na, and the Prague Symphony (who grace three tracks), Ozomatli are also joined by Los Lobos singer-guitarist David Hidalgo ("Santiago") and the band's original DJ, Cut Chemist ("Dejame en Paz"). There's also the band's new MC (Jabu, formerly of 4th Avenue Jones) and guest drummer, Mario Calire (formerly of The Wallflowers).

Throw in a board mixologist, who's worked with everyone from Justin Timberlake and NERD to Prince (Serben Ghenea), and engineers who've collaborated with the likes of Beck, Santana, Jack Johnson, and Cypress Hill (Robert Carranza and Anton Pukshansky), and you get what is easily the band's most vibrant and ambitious project to date.

Street Signs is both a mature testament to the band's nearly decade-long evolution and a fresh, dance floor-rocking reminder of their commitment to creating original music in the face of industry conservatism. "Saturday Night" is a dip-dive-socialize hip hop block party. "Love & Hope" is an anthem waiting to happen with its English-language mix of Arabic strings and new school Chicano funk-rock. "Dejame En Paz" is a papi chulo merengue fest that boils over into the mosh pit. The band even re-mixes itself (with the help of Ghenea and John Hanes) on "Ya Viene El Sol," turning its soaring concert sing-a-long into a piece of DJ heaven: a broken-beat electro cut-up of dancehall, batucada and jarocho.

"Since we started, our perspectives have changed as our lives have changed," explains tenor saxophonist Ulises Bella. "We just trust each other more now. Everyone gives everyone the space we all need. This band did not start, at all, to get a record deal. It started out of love for the music we made, and that's exactly where we still are."

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