Ray Mantilla: Good Vibrations (2006)
Politeness has always been a dubious quality in music. It is, however, one of the most obvious characteristics of this disc. With the exception of baritone sax and flautist Enrique Fernandez, not one of the musicians raises the heat. Instead, a bland uniformity prevails. The percussionists dovetail without injecting the kind of rhythmic impetus that would have elevated the material, and the results could serve well as background music for cocktail parties. They would certainly be unlikely to get in the way of conversation.
This fare is too buttoned up for its own good. "For Keeps" is evidence only of rhythmic impetus held in check so as to maintain a certain veneer, thus denying the ear the chance to home in on something other than solos that are models of unnecessary discretion. For all of its inherent melodic beauty, "Ya No Me Quieres (Bolero For Tito)" has little of the refined melancholy which listeners might associate with Antonio Carlos Jobim, for example. Besides, it's handled with such delicacy that the listening experience is an end in itself. The piece makes no lasting impression.
In the midst of all this, a rendition of the old warhorse "Flying Home" stands out beyond description. Fernandez's downright unruly baritone sax lends some much-needed impetus here, and it's just a pity that he plays it only on one other track.
If these players took on this music with the goal of not deviating from the middle of the road, or indeed the upmarket hotel lobby, then they've succeeded in that aim.
Track Listing: Flying Home; Midnight Sun; Maria Cervantes; For Keeps; Ya No Me Quieres (Bolero For Tito); Blues For Queen D; Camino Al Cielo Too; Namesake; Bari Con Bata.
Personnel: Enrique Fernandez: baritone sax, flute; Edy Martinez: piano; Mike Freeman: vibes; Cucho Martinez: bass; Bill Elder: drums. Special Guest: Steve Berrios: percussion.