The loose translation of “Ozomatli” is taken from a deity of the Aztec calendar, representing music, dance and passion. A 21st century description would describe the LA-based act as generating a party atmosphere, yet doing so with thoughtful minds and open hearts. How else to explain the United Nations explosion of sounds that combines hip hop, salsa, dancehall, cumbia, samba, funk, meringue, comparsa, East LA R&B, New Orleans second line, reggae and raga?
And like the international buffet of musical expression, Ozomatli represents themselves and the diversity of their hometown well with a mixture of Spanglish that reaches out and makes everyone feel invited. That’s also apparent with the noteworthy stance on “Gay Vatos In Love” (“Gay Homeboys In Love”) that opines without being preachy that equality must be for everyone. No exceptions.
The opening track is titled “Are You Ready?” and the answer is a solid “YES!” If you didn’t have your morning coffee to start your day, hit ‘play’ and let the buoyant rhythm ripple and awaken your system. Much of Fire Away sustains that initial wave of energy with “It’s Only Time” and “Love Comes Down” offering rare moments to take a breath. “Elysian Persuasion” rolls out like an update to the timeless funk of Sly and the Family Stone, including a familiar background chorus of “yeah… yeah… yeah… yeah.” That goes one step further with a Stax-inspired cover of the Pogues’ “Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah,” while “Nadas Por Free” gives a nod to Ray Barretto’s “Deeper Shade of Soul.” Live, Ozomatli creates a joyous celebration. Fire Away bottles that feeling into tightly-constructed numbers of immeasurable bliss.