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Track listing:
1. E.G.T.S.
2. A Donde Se Fue El Fuego
3. Echate Pa'Ya
4. La United Fruit Co.
5. Samba De Aviacao
6. Duas Caipirinhas
7. Un Jibarito Cantando Son
8. Esos labios No Son Tuyos
9. Ya Se Fue
10. Amanecer

David Gleason (Keyboards, Vocals)
Walter Ramos (lead vocals, coro, guiro, timbales)
Tim Williams (saxes, flute , coro)
Pete Sweeney (drum set, timbales)
Tony Garcia Jr. (congas,  agogô)
Tony Garcia Sr. (bongos, compana, samba shaker)
Pete Giroux (trumpet, flugelhorn)
Erik Johnson (bass)

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SENSEMAYA - Havana Before Dawn

by Jeff Waggoner

As someone who drove for years a ripe Taurus in line with hundreds of other white, middle-class, middle-aged  guys to a dull office job in Albany, it’s not always obvious to me that the Capital District isn’t all Lawrence Welk and Wonder Bread.

It’s a wonder, though, that the Capital Region has so many exceptional and diverse folk, such as those multi-talented musicians who make up the Latin+jazz+salsa music group, “Sensemaya.”

If Louisiana born jazz is gumbo, then Sensemaya is  sancocho.

The group is the product of the vision (and hearing) of keyboardist, David Gleason, a trained ethnomusicologist who grew up in Colonie, but left for college to bring back big ears, tuned south.

In short order, after getting a fresh MA Tufts, Gleason put together a line-up of A-league musicians who would be in the starting lineups of most any band that plays most any music.

That’s clear as soon as you switch on Sensemaya’s second CD, Havana Before Dawn or Madrugada Habanera (Dos Alas Records, 2011).  It’s a 10-cut suite of originals, with astonishing orchestration, singing and solos.

Including Gleason on keyboards, there is Walter Ramos (lead vocals, coro, guiro, timbales), Tim Williams (saxes, flute , coro), Pete Sweeney (drum set, timbales), Tony Garcia Jr. (congas,  agogô), Tony Garcia Sr. (bongos, compana, samba shaker), Pete Giroux (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Erik Johnson (bass).

Aside from the tight, knee-pumping groove throughout this album, the pure, honey-like voice of Ramos (who sings in Spanish) and the solos of Williams and Giroux shine. 

It’s tempting to file away Sensemaya as derivative. It is. It has deep roots. But the talent and musicianship of the octet on this CD provide it with its
own sound. Sometimes Buena Vista Social Club. Sometimes jazz. Sometime music from elsewhere, but ultimately it’s nothing else but Sensemaya. It is a sound too tight to be unwoven.

Havana Before Dawn, is an exciting snapshot of a group that’s obviously going places.

Jeff Waggoner has written book, CD and concert reviews for publications such as Down Beat, Jazz Times, Blues Access and The New York Times.