Traditional and Latin jazz musicians have taken separate risks to develop unique experimental approaches. Traditional jazz musicians have spent decades building, destroying, and reconstructing the harmonic foundation of jazz. Latin jazz musicians have emphasized rhythmic diversity, exploring the connections between jazz and a variety of Caribbean and South American traditions. Paths often cross through the stylistic embellishment of jazz standards with fixed harmonic forms, and diverge between avant-garde and Latin music. Percussionist Rolando Matias and his Afro-Rican Ensemble bring all jazz roads together into an intriguing mixture of risk, experimentation and history on "Live Volume One
Several repertoire choices immediately set the band apart from many Latin jazz ensembles. Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "Volunteered Slavery stands the furthest outside of Latin jazz conventions. Matias opens the piece with spoken word, and then leaves bassist Roger Hines to freely define a swing feel behind trumpet player Mike Wade and pianist Baris Buyukyildirim. The full Latin rhythm section brings the song to an up-tempo finish. The veiled appearance of a two-chord dance song starts Pharaoh Sanders' "Thembi (Part 1), as tenor saxophonist Eddy Bayard plays the melody. Wade and Bayard push their solos outside the harmony while Buyukyildirim and Hines boldly eliminate the harmonic center. As the band transitions into the sparse texture of "Thembi (Part 2), Buyukyildirim freely explores the territory between traditional melodies, polytonality, and Tyner-like open voicings. Beyond the novelty of unusual song choices, the full commitment to the musical aesthetics creates a stimulating musical experience.
Matias and his group rhythmically reconstruct standards as well, elevating the traditional music with their inspired performances. Joe Henderson's "Mamacita inherits a salsa rhythm, while maintaining its original hard bop flare. Wade and Bayard have done their homework on this jazz era, and they deliver fiery solos full of blues flavor and bop shape. "Black Narcissus opens with Hines rhythmically bowing his bass over a Comparsa rhythm. As the rhythm section builds intensity, Bayard delivers the melody and then plays a strong and passionate solo. Buyukyildirim takes center stage in "Tico Tico, a Bomba with traditional melodic and harmonic structures. After locking the melody into the drums, Buyukyildirim completely explores the changes, alternating between tense rhythmic patterns and flowing melodic phrases. Matias and guest timbalero Bobby Matos bring a passionate sense of tradition to "Song for Judd, providing heartfelt and studied percussion solos. The group builds strong performances, combining the best of both jazz worlds with their defined personal voices.
Matias and his group prioritize risk taking on "Live Volume One, bringing together diverse musical aesthetics. At times, the album reflects the downsides of musical risksmomentary lacks of unity, occasional tuning issues in the winds, and an uneven recording. Yet the positive results push the band into uncharted Latin jazz territory, forcing them to explore new improvisational challenges. Their musical journey reflects broad jazz history knowledge and an unbridled creative spirit. Their performance evolves into a clear statement of personality and character, exposing a tradition of unified experimentation.
Personnel: Rolando Matias: congas, Iya, shekere, vocals, percussion; Bobby Matos: timbales, Iya, shekere, vocals, percussion; Eddy Bayard: tenor saxophone; Mike Wade: trumpet, flugelhorn; Roger Hines: acoustic bass; Baris Buyukyildirim: piano.