This album is a testimonial to the courage and determination of the leader of the Syotos Band, Chris Washburne. Seven years ago he was informed that he had a malicious nerve cancer with a 50% chance of surviving and no chance of ever playing again. But he had a successful operation, and like an athlete undertaking physical therapy to recover from an injury, Washburne undertook lip and breath therapy which eventually permitted him to play again. It took him two years!
In 1992 Washburne founded the SYOTOS Band, a performing workshop for developing new composing and arranging techniques to bring together Afro-Cuban, Puerto Rican, Brazilian, Armenian melding into a jazz format. To fill the band's chairs, Washburne has garnered some of the finest best Latin jazz players on the New York scene. The 10 tunes on the plays are all composed by Washburne or one of the members of the band, except for one track by Clare Fischer. While all tunes are Latin rhythm based, there are hints of other genre throughout the session. For example, some of the blaring brass me of music I used to hear on sound tracks of those pseudo historical movies Hollywood used to turn out like Ben Hur or Cleopatra when the music was used to introduce an especially dramatic event, like the entrance of the Emperor or the Pharaoh with all their trappings.
Washburne has no problem mixing tempos and forms in the same arrangement. "Spurier's Dream" recalls Miles Davis' classic album with Gil Davis, "Sketches of Spain". Here Ray Vega "plays" the muted Davis style trumpet. But then it seques into a trombone solo that gets really close to the old time slide, wah-wah type playing that characterized New Orleans jazz. This out of the ordinary approach prevents this performance from getting into a rut and keeps listeners attentive. Several of the songs mix Latin rhythms with high flying, blaring brass playing, like on the title tune "Nuyorican Nights" which features the Spanish bull ring sounding trumpet of John Walsh. "Moosha" is a downright romantic ballad with a slight dash of bossa. There's a mixture of Latin with Avant-Garde on "9408".
All the music and the musicians who play it are top of the line. Old hand and in demand bassist, Harvie Swartz is present, along with Bobby Sanabria, Vince Cherico and Wilson "Chembo" Corniel. The latter three play a wide variety of Latin based percussive instruments establishing the heartbeat which makes Latin jazz so pulsating. This album is good stuff all around and is recommended. Visit Chris on the Internet at www. jazzcorner.com/washburne.
Track Listing: Nuyorican Nights; The Witch's Unveiling; Akran/Siretsi Yares Daran; Huracon; Spurier's Dream; Moosha; The Man without a Face; Shades of Grey; For So; 9408.
Personnel: Chris Washburne: Trombone/Tuba/Percussion/Leader; John Walsh, Ray Vega*: Trumpet; Ole Mathisen: Tenor Saxophone; Barry Olsen: Piano/Percussion; Harvie Swartz: Bass; Vince Cherico: Drums; Wilson "Chembo" Corniel: Congas/Shekere; Bobby Sanabria: Timbales/Bongos/Percussion.