The Tropical Dream

Terry Gomes

Independent release, 2017

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


As has been well-documented by my colleague Benjamin Ray, the prolific Terry Gomes started releasing albums over a decade ago in folk-rock singer-songwriter mode, a sort of Torontonian Paul Simon, before taking a turn toward instrumental music with 2013’s winkingly named Shh. Gomes followed that transitional album with a pair of “beachy” EPs (Sand In My Shoes and Blue.Green.Aquamarine.) devoted to exploring a kind of “island jazz” vibe for his instrumental work.

Gomes came by his affinity for the Caribbean-influenced sounds of the latter two EPs naturally, growing up in a Guyanese family fond of calypso and other South American and Caribbean styles. Having laid all of the above the groundwork, Terry Gomes returns in the dead of winter with The Tropical Dream, a natural progression from all that preceded it, a full-album song cycle that seamlessly melds Latin and jazz influences with a balmy seashore vibe that is, in a word, delightful.

“Happy Landings” opens things up with wonderful interplay between guitar, bass and steel drums, a real conversation happening between the players that’s simultaneously easygoing and agile, laid-back and joyful. The playfulness of that conversation had me grinning by the halfway mark of this concise 2:55 tune. (Another attribute all of these songs share: the longest tune here is 3:50 and none overstay their welcome, moving quickly and smoothly from track to track, theme to theme.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

With the basic vibe established, Gomes proceeds to let it play out across a range of different instrumental “looks,” adding and subtracting elements and instruments while keeping everything within a warm, comfortable Latin jazz groove. “Back Home” migrates the conversation to sax and Paraguayan harp, while “Evening Fire” plays a reggae theme off against a trumpet-led light jazz counterpoint with a Larry Carlton feel. “Market Rush” starts with a wonky jazz piano riff over bongos and bass before bringing in the scratchy percussion (a guiro, perhaps?) for that distinct Caribbean flavor.

“A Day Of Rain” delivers a gentle island samba vibe layered with nimble electric guitar that inevitably reminds of George Benson with its super-clean and elegant tone (which returns later on “Last One In…”). “Clear Skies Ahead” fits its title beautifully, a sunny, optimistic, trumpet-led island Mariachi tune that’s guaranteed to set your hips to “swivel.”  

“A Little Jungle Walk” is the closest this album gets to somber, featuring a tiptoeing piano melody dueting with cello; it’s a thoughtful, pleasant interlude, echoed later by “Tomorrow.” The album closes out with “Bye For Now,” a lilting guitar-and-bongos number that somehow manages to be both breezy—I imagine this being played at an outdoor bar with the sun setting over the ocean and a cold drink with a tiny umbrella in it in your hand—and ever so slightly melancholy, like a dream that’s slowly fading.

The Tropical Dream features a rich mélange of influences, but all manifested within the basic template of Latin jazz with an island feel, that smooth, sprightly, gently swaying vibe that encourages you to close your eyes and feel the sun on your shoulders and wind in your hair. In embracing his musical heritage, Gomes has located a natural groove for his music that’s immensely appealing.

Rating: A-

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