Collaboration lies at the heart of any successful performancea fact all artists remember when gathering musicians for a recording. The personnel need to compliment each other artistically while reflecting diverse musical backgrounds. The repertoire needs to challenge the musicians yet they must demonstrate mastery over it. The ensemble should display a mutual respect for the tradition while pushing it in creative directions. Flautist Mark Weinstein balances all these factors on Con Alma bringing together a bi-coastal group with immense amounts of life, creativity and musicality.
Weinstein and his group tackle a challenging modern jazz repertoire adapted into Latin rhythms. The stuttering rhythmic figures of Thelonious Monk's "Evidence work well over a double time rumba. Weinstein provides a fiery solo, blazing through the changes against the drummers' manic performance. Wayne Shorter's "Fee Fi Fo Fum comfortably rides a funky cross between Danzón and Salsa. Weinstein's solo reflects a combination of bluesy licks and rhythmic ideas while pianist Mark Levine adds contemporary melodic development. The musicians demonstrate a deep understanding of modern jazz through their inspired performances.
Several band members contribute original songs to the album. Weinstein's "Broadway Local combines "Giant Steps changes with several new modulations. His breathy tone exposes a flurry of notes, completely exploring the harmony. Levine's "La Coneja Loca provides a jazz Cha Cha Cha montuno supporting a rhythmic melody. Weinstein attacks the song with intensive rhythms and then Levine builds into a mixture of montunos and harmonic ideas. Bassist Santi Debriano and Levine open "Santi's Africaleidescope with a subtle 6/8 groove that quickly segues into a rhythmic melody. Weinstein and Levine both deliver stirring solos before Debriano reaches into the upper reaches of his bass. The artists display strong musicianship on these songs, both as performers and composers.
The group chooses some different selections that color the album distinctly. Weinstein starts the soulful groove to Bobby Hutcherson's "Gotcha on bass flute until the rhythm section adds a funky feel. He continues into a subtle blues flavored solo, enriched by his instrument's rich tone. A free improvisation moves into a bolero-esque feel on John Coltrane's "Crescent, eventually arriving in up-tempo Salsa. Levine plays a particularly inspired solo here, reflecting a study of both McCoy Tyner and Coltrane himself. These steps outside standard repertoire reveal the group's unique influences and daring nature.
Weinstein's group successfully brings together the elements that raise Con Alma into a unified display of personality. Levine's presence brings a West Coast flavor to the recording; the musicians approach the songs with a straight-ahead cool that exposes their comfort and control. The repertoire reflects a broad knowledge of jazzWeinstein and his group cover serious material essential to the jazz tradition. At the same time, they establish themselves as composers and active participants in the music's history. The group commits itself to a serious exploration of jazz and Latin music, displaying a powerful musicianship throughout the recording that strikes at the heart of collaboration.
Personnel: Mark Weinstein: flutes; Mark Levine: piano; Santi Debriano: bass; Mauricio Herrera: drums; Pedrito Martinez:congas.