Try this: Play the first track of Edmar Castaneda's Entre Cuerdas to any number of unsuspecting listeners, and then ask them to identify the primary instrument. You'll get plenty of guesses -- my SO's answers included banjo, mandolin, and dulcimer -- but my guess is none of those guesses will be "the harp" (and I don't mean the kind Charlie Musselwhite plays).
Yup, we're talking about that massive multi-stringed instrument old-time TV shows used to transition into flashbacks and dream sequences; Bugs Bunny -- the original MacGyver -- occasionally re-purposed it as a crossbow. Not the kind of thing you'd expect to hear outside of Symphony Hall, right? Castaneda collaborators like Wynton Marsalis, John Scofield, Joe Locke, and Paquito D'Rivera would strongly disagree. These jazz stalwarts certainly didn't want the Colombian native's axe for comedy relief, because Entre Cuerdas isn't funny… gorgeous, entrancing, and musically succulent, but it definitely isn't funny.
"Entre Cuerdas" translates to "between the strings," which is where it seems Castaneda has to go to create sounds associated with the instruments mentioned above, plus an ebullient Flamenco acoustic guitar and a pulsing bass only Dave Holland could love. The former "instrument" juices the passionate title track, while the latter gives the mournful "Jesus of Nazareth" additional resonance. Frankly, Castaneda's musical Swiss Army knife makes Charlie Hunter's 7-string guitar seem trite.
When he's not laying down hot solos of his own, trombonist Marshall Gilkes is Castaneda's primary foil, bringing an open sound that's a perfect contrast to Castaneda's taut attack. The disc's scope widens further on "Canto," as Castaneda's wife Andrea Tierra alternates between hushed spoken-word and majestic vocalese. Locke and Castaneda demonstrate their tremendous rapport on "Calibri" and "Song of Hope," and (with apologies to Kiss fans) the bipolar "Sobrason" sounds like there's a guitar army on the track, even if it's just Scofield's electric and Castaneda imitating Pat Metheny's Pikasso.
As World music, Entre Cuerdas is one of the best examples on the scene today; as a technical exercise, it's a jaw-dropper; and as a member of that ridiculous award category called "Miscellaneous," Edmar Castaneda is in a class by himself. Don't call his mode of expression a gimmick, though. That really wouldn't be funny.