Sammy Figueroa & His Latin Jazz Explosion: Urban Nature (2011)
The nine-piece repertoire leads off in explosive manner with the propulsive "Gufillo," featuring the pianist and trumpeter Alexander Pope Norris in support of Figueroa's percussive handiwork. Vivas introduces his own title track, an assertive number highlighting soprano saxophonist John Michalak, with dicey cymbal splashes from drummer Nomar Negroni and more from Monasterios. Pianist Mike Orta and saxophone great Ed Calle, grace the album as special guests on "Latin What?," a swift-paced Latin rhythm original from Orta.
The music withdraws gently on Monasterios' "Zuliana," a soft Latin ballad with voices from the pianist, Figueroa and accompanying Venezuelan percussion from Jose Gregorio Hernandez. The sounds of Salsa come alive on the most overt Latin piece of the album providing lots of shoulder-moving moments on "Cuco y Olga." The band returns to a more natural Latin jazz territory on the melody-rich "Cha Cha Pa' Ti," and delicate "Queen From The South."
Bookending the session with another hard-driving piece, "Funny Talk" ends the album with a pounding performance from Figueroa, propelling another fine set of hot Latin rhythms. When hearing Figueroa's music, comparisons to the great Mongo Santamaria and conguero Ray Barretto, are inevitable. And while a sampling of Urban Nature may serve to further this notion, Figueroa proves to have a distinguishing technique and voice of his own, making him the leading percussionist in Latin jazz today.
Track Listing: Gufillo; Urban Nature; Latin What?; Zuliana; 7th Door To Your Left; Cuco y Olga; Cha Cha Pa' Ti; Queen From The South; Funny Talk.
Personnel: Sammy Figueroa: percussion; Silvano Monasterios: piano; John Michalak: saxophones; Alexander Pope Norris: trumpet; Nomar Negroni: drums; Ed Calle: tenor saxophone (3); Mike Orta: piano (3, 6); Jose Gregorio Hernandez: Venezuelan percussion (4).
Record Label: Senators Records