Jaco Pastorius’ favorite bassist, unlike him, is still alive and well. Back in 1996, the Heineken Jazzfest (HJ), was issuing another recording benefiting the Heineken Jazz Workshop Fund while honoring said bassist, Israel López “Cachao” . López, nonetheless, is not a jazz bassist, nor is he known as such; neither does he perform a jazz number in this album. Nonetheless, to lesser and greater degrees, he has influenced manifold jazz developments and figures. Now, (June-’02) he is advanced in age although justly playing as strong as ever, having just returned to Miami after a successful presentation in New York just last week.
The ’96 version of the Caribbean Jazz Project , including “Cachete” Maldonado in percussion on this date, although not noted in the liner notes, sound apropos in a Caribbean jazz festival. Their sonority, at the time, was truly refreshing and here they bid for the audience’s response with “Latin Quarters.” In it, all soloists in the gig do their thing happy, jumpy and brilliantly through it all.
This might be the only live recording of the Michel Camilo and Giovanni Hidalgo pairing that saw recorded light in Hands in Motion, entitled Hands of Rhythm in its pre-release version. That recording was a transitional closure in the career of Hidalgo, as it was done to satisfy his recording contract at the time. The tune “Why Not!,” however, the title cut for Camilo’s ’92 release under the Evidence label, serves well as a reminder of how much virtuosity was involved in that brief association. Curiously, at the time, it was often observed that the duo was difficult to take in after one set. Nevertheless, herein your ears will have a good time!
“Cachao” is immortalized in the digital realm through his signature “A Gozar Con Mi Combo.” Backed-up by local strongmen, with the importation of Orestes Vilató in timbales, this descarga or jam session, is thrilling. “Cachao’s” playing is out-of-this-world! Even noted Salsa pianist Enrique “Papo” Lucca, has a hard time catching up to the viejo maestro.
Christian McBride follows “Cachao’s” jam session in this album with “Grove.” The tune was featured in his recording Number Two Express and it launches an immediate swinging groove established and guided by the saxophonist, reaching a next higher pianistic level, before rounding things off in order to let McBride hit his stride with aplomb throughout it all. Having the chance of comparing and contrasting, the bass playing of this young master with “Cachao’s,” would be a welcomed exercise afforded by this recording. Each one, in their respective contexts, renders beautiful, challenging and delightful music.
“Remember When” was a Dirty Dozen Bras Band party on stage. Although burning is commonly used for describing highly charged music, this performance can only be described as such. You can feel the horns on your skin while having an all too brief good time!
Harpist Roberto Perera gets going with his unlikely axe in “Spanish Dancer.” Perera’s uniquely and exotic aromas are teased in sweetened familiar frameworks belying manifold textures painted in bright, cheerful and stately colored traditions.
A guitar and drum duo is the medium for Kenny Burrell’s interpretation of “Tin Tin Deo.” Deepened in sensitiveness, Burrell’s foray into this renowned composition remains laid back in its edge, although without need for fortification. Even when the pace quickens, nonetheless, the fingering coolly shows shades of a curious and festive inner peace.
The unidentified Berklee in Puerto Rico Student Jazz Band swings extremely hard in “Presidential Manor.” Had they not used congas in this tune, it would have been an even greater performance in mainstream Big Band jazz. Their use notwithstanding, this is yet another fiery proof that the Berklee-HJ association is proving quite fruitful. While listening to this CD, after Burrell’s wise guitar playing, one encounters prowess and young discipline at the hands of the guitar soloist as a chockfull of a Big Band wall hits the listener. Then the sax fun begins, and it is fun indeed! A trombonist picks the challenge up and leads the charge up the audience’s hill of expectations, the assault continues with the trumpet valves gesticulating their fare in rapid fire. Then the sax fun returns duplicated, and it is even more fun than the first time! You get the picture...
José Nelson Ramírez and The Paradise Band, from western Puerto Rico, is one of the local jazz groups included in this festival. “Añasco” is the name of a Puerto Rican town in the western part of the island. This is a rare led organ date for a Puerto Rican group and its irrepressible spirit says a mouthful with a lashing tongue.
“Luna Llena” is a lounged Latin Jazz cut from a local group that heats up abruptly, albeit remaining within manageable range.
With “Isabel the Liberator,” Jerry González & The Fort Apache Band close this CD with a rare performance without Andy González playing bass. This tune appears as the opener in Jerry’s release Fire Dance and herein we find another live take on it with thick pulses and sprinkles with idioms of their own. The Fort Apache Band, is an item in itself worth studying and enjoying.
Notes: The performances of Dee Dee Bridgewater , Jimmy Smith & Kenny Burrell, were not included in this recording. It is not clear whether the HJ official reference to Mano a Mano as a “participant” or “group” refers to a type of jazz “cutting session” à la Latin Jazz or an actual group. José Luis Díaz de Villegas also did the festival’s logo for this year. Such cover art can be seen at the Merchandise section of the HJ website.