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Adelante a Libertad! (Onward to Freedom!)

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This is an extremely ego-less recording, where Bunnett
Latin music has been of such interest to me lately, I think, because it is generally played with passion and precision in a world that seems to hold both in short supply. To me, good Latin music usually sounds like a vibrant and colorful and noisy carnival. To borrow the lyric from “I Don’t Speak Spanish” by John Santos & Bobby Matos on the Cubop compilation featured below: “It was the drums that called me...the call and response sharing one breath, one organic sensation...the release rushes in to ecstasy and I am free in this music. We can be free in this music!”


Viva Cubop 3: The Essential Latin & Afro-Cuban Jazz Collection (Cubop)
This set layers thirteen tracks from the Cubop roster of Afro-Cuban masters past and present into a thick forest of steamy, sweltering percussion funk.

Timbalero Bobby Matos was the first artist the label signed and is represented by “Kimbisa” from his album Footprints. Matos also produced “Back to the Roots,” a reminder that the marimba is a percussion instrument too, from Peligroso, the second Cubop album by marimba player Dave Pike. A longtime veteran of the Latin groove, Pike has graced sessions led by Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock and is also featured on Herbie Mann’s classic Family of Mann album.

It’s sometimes more foolish than brave to cover a song when a famous cover version already exists. But thanks to the hot and brilliant tenor saxophone of Charles Owens, conguero Francisco Aguabella rediscovers the sparkle of the Coltrane side to “My Favorite Things,” changing the beat on the last note of the two main melodic phrases just enough to make the rhythm flow differently behind Owens’ titanic tenor.

Other stalwarts are represented with “Bemba Colora” from Scorching the Skins by legendary conguero Jack Costanzo, universally credited with introducing the bongos to American jazz, and “My Dream Boogaloo” from Caliente Con Soul by Pucho & The Latin Soul Brothers. Prime movers in the virulently funky 1960s – ‘70s soul jazz strain known as boogaloo, timbalero Henry “Pucho” Brown and his Brothers continue to rock the beat hard – playfully, but hard. Another pillar of the Afro-Cuban community, Tito Puente is honored by British conguero/DJ Snowboy with “42nd & Broadway” from his tribute album Para Puente.

In addition, this set delivers a genuine collectors’ item with “Barrets Bag,” a teeth-rattling percussion explosion from the Har You Percussion Group, a fifteen-piece electric Latin / funk fusion big band which grew from a community service program designed to benefit young people in Harlem.


Bill Summers & Irvin Mayfield: Los Hombres Calientes: Volume 4: Vodou Dance (Basin Street)
Trumpet player Irvin Mayfield has been a primary shaper of the modern musical landscape of New Orleans: He serves as artistic director of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and as executive director and artistic director of the Institute of Jazz Culture at Dillard University in New Orleans, and has performed his own arrangements of spirituals and original works with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (2001 commission) and the Louisiana Philharmonic String Quartet. Mayfield also leads his own Quintet and performs with Bill Summers, an ethnomusicologist and percussionist who has worked with Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters, Stevie Wonder, and Quincy Jones, as Los Hombres Calientes.

In his inner sleeve notes, Summers writes, “This CD was done in love and respect for our ancestors who left this rich spiritual, artistic, and scientific legacy.” Los Hombres recognize this legacy by linking the major pieces of this set together with twelve tracks, credited as “traditional,” which are mostly vocal chant and percussion interludes from impromptu jam sessions with native folk musicians. Through these field recordings from Haiti, Brazil, Jamaica, and Trinidad, Volume 4: Vodou Dance ties the musical and cultural traditions of the Caribbean together with the Afro-Cuban and New Orleans jazz traditions.

Mileposts in Los Hombres’ journey include George Duke’s creamily pastel “Brazilian Sugar,” the languidly blue “Creole Groove,” the New Orleans classics “Jocimo” and rowdy “Wild Tchoupitoulas,” the reggae “Ghetto Get Up” and bristling “Latin Tinge.” “I Wouldn’t Have Religion,” testifying gospel howled and moaned in Greater Providence Baptist Church in New Orleans, helps bring it all back home.


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