Caribbean Jazz Project: Island Stories
Paquito D'Rivera on soprano and alto saxophones and clarinet, longtime Spyro Gyra contributor Dave Samuels on vibes and marimba, and steel pan master Andy Narell. Each of these players are leaders in their own right, with impressive discographies of solo and group work, but when they come together in this band, magic happens. While Cuban ex-patriate D-Rivera is the only actual Latino among the leaders, Samuels and Narell have cultivated sufficient experience in and love for Caribbean music that they are able to compose and perform in the genre expertly and beautifully.
The program is a unique hybrid of American jazz and various Latin influences. Plus, the aural combination of vibes, steel drums, and clarinet or sax is quite uniquely satisfying. When D'Rivera performs on clarinet, the pieces often add classical influences into the mix as well.
This is their second release, and it lives up to the standards and promise of their eponymous debut release. This time around, the original six musicians remain (other band members play piano, bass, and drums) and the services of a percussionist are added, to excellent effect. All of the other band members perform well, but special mention should be made of Peruvian pianist Dario Eskenazi. He contributes an educated, emotive composition, well-executed solos, and supportive accompaniment. It's difficult to garner much notice with a front line such as this, but watch for some excellent music from this guy in the years to come.