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No album should ever serve as a debut and a posthumously-released pièce de résistance, but such is the case with bassist Charles Flores' Impressions Of Graffiti. At the age of 40, the Grammy Award-winning bassist, who spent time working with pianist Michel Camilo
, and numerous other Latin jazz notables, finally found time to put himself first, but his time quickly ran out; cancer took his life in August of 2012, but not before he had a chance to make his mark as a leader on record.
Impressions Of Graffiti can be viewed as the culmination of his life's work. It shines a light on his compositional aesthetic and showcases his stellar bass playing, but it doesn't come off like a player-hogging-the-spotlight session. With other heavies on the date like drummer Cliff Almond
, Flores didn't have to worry about shouldering the weight of the record with his own two hands.
The music itself is driven with fusion-esque fervor and that particular style of music serves as a common room or lingua franca for all involved here, but it doesn't define the record. Flores blends in allusions to Cuba ("Carlito's Way" and "Persecusion") and Brazil ("Miriam"), and touches on other close fusion relatives, like funk ("Driving Through") and rock ("Street Walk"). He delivers mellower music for the wandering spirit ("Gentle Words"), but prefers to inspire through intensity ("Impressions Of Graffiti"). The majority of his compositions are hard-hitting and memorable, but the occasional almost-forgettable number ("Influence") still manages to make an impact through demonstrative soloing. Flores is nothing short of brilliant when he takes center stage, delivering fast, fluid and fancy finger work with ease.
While the presence of guests like keyboardist Manuel Valera
may pique the interest of jazz fans who are unfamiliar with Flores' work, the core quartet is the real attraction here. Flores and Villafranca are completely in synch at every turn, whether playing off or with one another. Almond, known as the stellar drumming force behind some of Camilo's best work, brings that same sense of passion and drive to this project, and guitarist Richard Padron
establishes himself as a force with which to be reckoned.
While it appears that Impressions Of Graffiti will sadly serve as the late Charles Flores' only album, it leaves him with a perfect 1-0 record and an unblemished leader discography; few achieve such success, but nobody would expect less from such a talent.
Track Listing: Impressions Of Graffiti; Gentle Words; Street Walk; Broken Image; Carlito's Way; Driving Through; Miriam; Influence; The Whole Train; Back On The Wall; Persecusion.
Personnel: Charles Flores: bass; Elio Villafranca: piano, keyboards; Richard Padron: guitar; Cliff Almond: drums; Wayne Krantz: guitar (3, 6); Manuel Valera: keyboards (9), percussion programming.