By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
An expression of Los Angeles' rich cultural melting pot, Ozomatli grew from a loose collective supporting the transformation of an old building into a community center as part of a labor dispute 13 years ago. That generous, familial spirit infuses this horn-driven octet, offering a combination dance party/celebration of the human spirit.
Drawing on disparate backgrounds, Ozomatli blends hip-hop, jazz-funk, Latin roots and rock, powered by SuperBall bounce vibrating from soulful world roots fusions to dance floor infernos, which can even find band members leading a conga line through the audience. They scored a major-label deal for their second album, Embrace the Chaos, which, ironically and to the band's detriment, came out on September 11, 2001. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Middle Eastern tones join the mix on their 2004 follow-up, Street Signs.
For last year's Don't Mess With the Dragon the group employs pop producer KC Porter (Boyz II Men, Ricky Martin) to forge a furiously dance-friendly sound that's so frenetic and pulsing as to be almost oppressive—like a loud talker in a jazz bar. That said, the tracks are fine fodder for the footloose live show whose electricity rivals the Vegas strip at night. Rapper/ex-member Chali 2na (Jurassic 5) rejoins them for this tour.
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