Guitarist/composer/arranger Mike Arroyo's press release affirms that he is a pioneer on the sacred music scene in Puerto Rico. Having received the inspiration for Christian music from his parents, Arroyo studied at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico, as well as taking instruction from jazz guitarists Vic Juris, Jody Fisher and several others. His 2001 debut album, Straight to Heaven
, was a first insofar as it merged jazz and religious worship music. On My Jazzy Mood
, he mixes in religious themes, smooth jazz and Latin jazz.
Basically, the first half of the album sounds like smooth jazz. Arroyo's guitar style is heavily influenced by Wes Montgomery by way of George Benson. So we're hearing a lot of octave plucking, and how bad can that be. The music is easy to take, and it could provide a perfect poolside backdrop. The second track, Paul Simon's "Bridge Over Trouble Water," is as close as a rock song got to gospel music in terms of inspiration. Simon based the tune on his experiences listening to groups like the Highway QCs and Swan Silvertones in the 1950s.
As a novice listener of Christian-jazz music, I can't tell how effective those tunes would sound to devotees. On "Vine a Adorar," "Mira al Cielo" and On Que Amigo Es Cristo (What A Friend We Have in Jesus)," Arroyo plays in a more straighahead style, while vibraphonist Christos Rafailidez, tenor saxophonist Dominic Lali, and conguero Richie Flores bring a touch of Latin jazz. "Perfect Mood" is also a pretty decent straighahead presentation. The album ends with a vocal by Milly Laracuent on "Floracitos," which as the opening tune was originally played in a smooth jazz interpretation.
I found the opening half of the album more user-friendly in terms of smooth jazz airplay. Then the worship material offers a bridge to more staightahead stylings. So the album remains a mixed bag overall. The presence of musicians like pianist Jason Lindner and bassist John Benitez brings more professionalism to the date. Mike Arroyo also has a concert DVD that was released in October of 2006, Performing Live - The Christian Jazz Night, which gives off a longer and visual display of his guitar styles, utilizing essentially the same cast and the same material. There's also a testimonial to John Benitez and additional material like Rodgers & Hart's "Falling In Love with Love" and Hoagy Carmichael's "The Nearness of You."
Personnel: Mike Arroyo: lead and rhythm guitar; John Benitez: acoustic and electric bass; Alan Yanvai:
acoustic piano; Steve Hass: drums; Richie Flores: congas; Christos Ratalidez: vibes; Dominic
Lali: tenor sax; Gene Jackson: drums; Jason Lindner: acoustic piano; Manuel Valera:
keyboards; Millie Laracuent: vocal.