The Latin Tinge: Small Band Style
The article The Latin Tinge: Big Band Style looked at a spate of big band releases featuring Latin influenced jazz. An equally large spate of small band recordings devoted to Latin jazz has also been released. The two bodies of work are vibrant evidence that the Latin assimilation of jazz is one of the most fortuitous and productive artistic unions in music.
Jazz is a unique gift the United States has given the world. Not a static entity, jazz has been transmogrified internationally, as evidenced in Scandinavia with its Nordic big bands and in Italy with its fine small combos and soloists. The Germans made recording an art with the ECM and Winter & Winter labels. And it was the French and the Dutch who welcomed African-American expatriates to their friendly countries.
But it is the jazz of the American hemisphere that has experienced the greatest evolution. These recordings are evidence of this evolution.
Dafnis Prieto Sextet
Taking The Soul For A Walk
Cuban percussionist/composer Dafnis Prieto is first and foremost a technician, as his previous recordings About The Monks (Zoho Music, 2005) and Absolute Quartet (Zoho Music, 2006) reveal. Prieto's closest stylistic match may be the late drummer Tony Williams, when one considers the impact the two musicians have had on their instrument and jazz in general.
Prieto's compositions are infused with his acute brand of percussive rhythm, and it serves him well. He draws equally from hard bop and free jazz but never at the expense of form when employing the latter. "The Sooner The Better" readily illustrates this. The piece begins with a simple piano note doubled with Prieto's ride cymbal and Yunior Terry's intricate bass figures. The horns then join and the piece becomes polyrhythmic in the extreme. Pianist Manuel Valera is the glue that holds this fractured symmetry together. The song breaks into solos over the introductory sections and then the polyrhythmic sections. The juxtaposition is striking.
Dafnis Prieto is not content to simply replay the past. His vision of Latin jazz remains fundamentally Latin, while stretching the rhythmic boundaries of both composing complexity and the listener's pinched attention. That is not to say that his music is difficult to enjoy. It is not. Its invention is astonishing and its rewards ample.
Pablo Ziegler-Quique Sinesi with Walter Castro
Buenos Aires Report
Nuevo Tango is what Pablo Ziegler calls his "plantation that Piazzolla built." Ziegler's previous releases in the tango idiom include Quintet For New Tango (RCA, 2000) and Baja Cero (Zoho Music, 2006). The latter of these sports the same lineup found on Buenos Aires Report.
Buenos Aires Report was recorded live at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam. Ziegler's new tango comes off very well in a live setting. Like Prieto, Ziegler is not satisfied staying in one creative place. He likes to push boundaries beyond the classic tango, taking its tradition with him. The disc includes nine of the sixteen pieces performed at the concert, begging the question as to why the entire set was not released. But no matter, the proof is in the pudding, and the Zoho Music powers-that-be did a good job sequencing of the disc.
Songs of interest include guitarist Quique Sinesi's "Milonga Para Hermeto," which possesses a rich and decadent melody organically seasoned with Walter Castro's bandoneon. Astor Piazzolla's "Libertango" is given its full measure by Ziegler, who treats the piece with both respect and abandon. Tango is impossible to dislike. It is beautifully steeped in tradition and culture and may be the greatest thing given the world from the Paris of South America.
Hendrik Meurkens' affinity for Latin jazz is no more unusual than that of George Frederic Handel's for Italian opera. Harmonica player and vibraphonist Meukens has previously divided his talents on Amazon River (Blue Toucan Music, 2005) and New York Samba Jazz Quintet (Zoho Music, 2006). These releases have been well received both for their new compositions and their interpretations of classic songs.
Meurkens possesses an advanced and beautiful harmonica technique. He easily belongs in the same company as Toots Thielemans and Stevie Wonder, both masters of the difficult instrument. His soloing, particularly on the opening title track, is sprite with ideas and sharp technique. The same is true of his vibes playing. On Jobim's "Voce Vai Ver," Meurkens is light and mercurial, attaining a creative tension potently present but almost imperceptible. That makes for sublime music making.
Meurkens closes this disc with "Bernie's Tune," leaving the Latin realm with a bop flavor. Meurkens has established himself as an expert Latin jazz interpreter. He adds to the embarrassment of riches that is Zoho Music. Let's hope for many more like this one.
Trio Da Paz & Joe Locke
Live At Jazzbaltica