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Gabriel Espinosa: From Yucatan to Rio (2009)

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Gabriel Espinosa: From Yucatan to Rio How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Bassist Gabriel Espinosa's From Yucatan to Rio (Zoho Music, 2009) works the abundant musical territory found in Latin rhythms and harmony, creating sounds that are at once fresh while still carrying a tinge of bossa and '60s sounds.



Working with an A-list crew that includes Claudio Roditi

Claudio Roditi
Claudio Roditi
b.1946
trumpet
on trumpet, Anat Cohen
Anat Cohen
Anat Cohen

sax, tenor
on clarinet (for "Nuevos Horizontes"), and drummer Antonio Sanchez
Antonio Sanchez
Antonio Sanchez
b.1971
drums
on several cuts, Espinosa gets terrific treatments of his compositions.



Espinosa's regular gig is with the Iowa-based Ashanti Latin and Jazz Band, for which he also pens many tunes. The practice gives him a solid foundation for crafting his smooth, neo-Brazilian sound.



As a bassist, Espinosa stays in the background, instead letting his featured performers take solo turns.



From Yucatan to Rio opens with "Agua De Beber," penned by Antonio Carlos Jobim

Antonio Carlos Jobim
Antonio Carlos Jobim
1927 - 1994
piano
, with lyrics by Vinicius De Moraes
Vinicius De Moraes
Vinicius De Moraes
1913 - 1980
guitar
translated to English by Norman Gimbel. Espinosa arranges the tune with close harmonies—performed by Kim Nazarian, Darmon Meader, Alison Wedding and himself—recalling a Brasil '66 sound, before Roditi takes a brilliant solo that raises the tune to another level.



Espinosa has a real ear for melody, demonstrated by "Klavier Latino." A memorable melody is played on horns, with a vocal harmony. Alternating solos fill out the track, highlighted by Helio Alves

Helio Alves
Helio Alves

piano
' piano solo and a hard-bopping sax solo by George Robert
George Robert
b.1960
. It's possibly the strongest track on the CD, and is certain to work its way onto many playlists.



Strong melodies highlight others tracks, as well—"Maria" and "Azul Y Negro" also have the kind of easy-to-whistle melodies seldom heard these days. But here, again, intelligent solos add to the compositions.



Such change-ups mark Espinosa's compositions, with familiar, smooth neo-Bossa melodies contrasting with solos that lean towards mainstream or hard-bop jazz. The combination works well, keeping the music from becoming too saccharin.



Two tracks on the release feel weaker, however. Both were written by Alison Wedding, and feel flat next to Espinosa's fine work. "We've Come Undone" and "Remain" also both feature Wedding's sultry vocals, but the melodies are simply not as strong as the other tracks. The solos come to the rescue, however, with Alves again adding the right touch on piano for "Undone," and Roditi and guitarist Romero Lubambo

on "Remain," but Wedding seems to have no place to go when she returns and the songs unwind towards their conclusions. Wedding also does a nice scat closing for "Remain," but her compositional work is just not at the same level as Espinosa's.



Gabriel Espinosa has done himself well on his debut solo release—the music is light, but not lightweight, and very memorable.

Track Listing: Agua De Beber; Klavier Latino; LP 07; We've Come Undone; Nuevos Horizontes; Morning Breeze; Azul Y Negro; Remain; Maria; Huracan.

Personnel: Gabriel Espinosa: bass, background vocals; Claudio Roditi: trumpet, flugelhorn; George Robert: alto sax; Helio Alves: piano, keyboards; Alison Wedding: lead vocals (4, 8), backing vocals (tracks 2 and 9), alto (track 1); Antonio Sanchez: drums (2, 5, 6, 8, 9); Adriano Santos: drums (1, 3, 4, 7, 10); Darmon Meader: vocals (1); Kim Nazarian: vocals (1); Anat Cohen: clarinet (5); Romero Lubambo: guitar (3, 4, 6, 8, 9); Dende: percussion; Patricio Espinosa: background vocals (9).

Record Label: Zoho Music

Style: Latin/World


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