This is one of those good old-fashioned power-laden big-band albums that begs the listener to crank up the volume and let 'er rip. Great songs and wonderful charts, essentially in a buoyant Latin groove, played to a fare-thee-well by Germany's superlative WDR Big Band, with electifying solos by Paquito D'Rivera, Claudio Roditi, other guest artists and members of the ensemble.
D'Rivera and Roditi, who performed together in mentor Dizzy Gillespie's United Nation Orchestra and have continued to do so on occasion with the Gillespie All-Star Alumni Band, underscore their big-band mastery by delivering a series of forceful, in-the-pocket statements that help make Big Band Time a sharp and invigorating syllabus of swinging big-band Jazz with a Spanish accent. They're aided and abetted by three members of D'Rivera's regular working group, bassist Oscar Stagnaro, drummer Mark Walker and percussionist Pernell Saturnino, and a number of canny WDR soloists including pianist Frank Chastenier, saxophonists Heiner Wiberny and Olivier Peters, guitarist Paul Shigihara, bassist John Goldsby, trombonist Ludwig Nuss and trumpeter John Marshall.
D'Rivera wrote six of the ten selections, Roditi and Leo Brouwer one each, and the album closes with two masterworks by the legendary Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona, "Andalucia" and "Y la Negra Bailaba." A further word about that: whoever designed and printed the album's booklet and tray card was either misled or did so before the final sequencing was decided, as several of the tracks are out of order. It took a while to sort them out but the correct listing (I believe) is what appears to the right of this review.
Not much to say about the music except that almost everything the band and soloists cook up is downright spectacular. D'Rivera, whose name doesn't often appear in the "popularity polls" (nor does Roditi's, for reasons that are unfathomable here), is as good a clarinetist as you're likely to hear anywhere, anytime, as he shows on the first three selections, his own bubbly "To Brenda with Love" and seductive "Song for Maura" and Brouwer's lively "Danza Caracteristica." Roditi and Chastenier also solo on "Brenda," Chastenier on "Maura," Shigihara, Walker and Saturnino on "Danza."
"Who's Smokin'?," based on Jerome Kern's "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and arranged by Jay Ashby, is a free-wheeling swinger with scorching solos by Wiberny (who sounds uncannily like Cannonball Adderley), Nuss, Roditi and D'Rivera on alto. The tempo remains up for Roditi's saucy samba, "Annette's," on which he solos with D'Rivera, Walker, Saturnino and Chastenier. Bassists Stagnaro and Goldsby are the headliners on D'Rivera's high-flying "Basstronaut," which contains faint allusions to Dizzy's "Manteca." D'Rivera solos on clarinet, Roditi on trumpet, and Paquito then switches to alto to trade fours with Claudio.
D'Rivera's creamy clarinet enhances his gently swaying "Como un Bolero" (with other solos by Roditi [muted] and Shigihara), after which the mood changes from Latin to bop for D'Rivera's "A lo Tristano," a tribute to the late pianist Lennie T that embodies eloquent commentary by Paquito (alto), tenor Peters and trumpeter Marshall. Roditi and Chastenier share the blowing space on Lecuona's lyrical "Andalucia" before Paquito neatly wraps the package with another persuasive clarinet soliloquy on "Y la Negra Bailaba."
A consistently colorful and exciting big-band album with a swaggering Latin beat that never fails to please.
Contact: Pimienta Records, P.O. Box 164833, Miami, FL 33116-4833. Phone 305-801-8965; fax 305-48-1904. www.pimientarecords.com . Distributed by Universal Music Latino, 420 Lincoln Road, Suite 200, Miami Beach, FL 33139.
Track Listing: To Brenda With Love, Danza Caracteristica, Song for Maura, Basstronaut, Who's Smokin'?, Y La
Negra Bailaba, Andalucia, A Lo Tristano, Como Un Bolero, Annette's For Sure.
Personnel: Paquito D'Rivera: clarinet, saxophone;John Goldsby: bass;
Claudio Roditi: trumpet, flugelhorn;
Koji Paul Shigihara: guitar; Oscar Stagnaro: bass; Mark Walker: drums; Olivier Peters: saxophone;
Heiner Wiberny: saxophone; Pernell Saturnino: percussion; Ludwig Nuss: trombone.