Though released on Fresh Sound's "World Jazz" imprint, this live album by Fernando Huergo's Jazz Argentino band captures a fantastic set of Latin-influenced modern jazz that does not deserve to be pigeonholed. Bassist and composer Huergo reunited the musicians that made 2002's Jazz Argentino studio album (save for new pianist Mika Pohjola) for a burning gig at Boston's Regattabar, recorded in excellent fidelity for WGBH Radio. Expansive and exploratory, with memorable tunes (all by Huergo), excellent solos, and compelling rhythms, Huergo's music will have broad appeal.
The kick-off track, "Chacarera Para El Diego," is a clear standout. Huergo begins the main theme on electric bass (which he seems to favor simply for its fluidity and consistency of tone, since the sound he gets is classic rather than fusionesque), soon doubled on piano. A percussion break and a new, sinuous bass/piano vamp cues up an exciting series of solos, beginning with saxophonist Chris Cheek. Cheek is an impressive player who is at home in any setting, judging from his fine work on many varied Fresh Sound sessions; his solo here is fiery and propulsive, and well-supported by interesting figures from Pohjola, who also solos to good effect. Huergo's solo is full of life, its melodic phrases constantly bouncing off of the percussion backing in intriguing cross-rhythms. Then the percussionists turn up the heat, soloing against the piano vamp, before the main theme comes back to close out the tune to wild applause.
So exciting is the "Chacarera" that one might expect the remainder of this long (74 minutes+) set to be a let-down. Not so. The other seven originals all contain wonderful moments: the pounding, low-end piano figures on "Che"; the lilt of "Esperanza"'s melody; and the insistent rhythm of "El Tren De Las Nubes," to name but a few examples. Throughout, Huergo's compositions meld South American folk musics seamlessly with jazz, and the band is astonishingly tight, considering that each of the players is involved in multiple other projects.
This is one of the more consistently enjoyable live recordings in recent memory, and is highly recommended listening for fans of exciting jazz, "world" or no.
Personnel: Chris Cheek, tenor and soprano saxophones; Mika Pohjola, piano; Fernando Huergo, bass; Jeff Ballard, drums; Franco Pinna, bombo and cajon