The rhythms of Latin music are some of the most challenging in jazz. To play this music convincingly, mastery of its syncopation, odd groupings, accents, grooves and poly-rhythms are absolutely required, and this is no easy task. On "Serengeti", Mark Levine and the Latin Tinge prove not only are they masters of the groove, but tasteful, soulful and inspired players as well.
"Cha Cha Cha Para Mi Alma", a charmingly simple number, starts this recording in a relaxed, swinging style. Mark Levine leads the quartet from the piano, and he leads it well. His economical, melodic solo and the crisp ensemble play within is a microcosm of the good taste and compositional approach the band utilizes throughout the date. These aren’t "head tunes" that are vehicles for childish displays of chops, but rather separate pieces of music - small group arrangements (with intros, re-harmonizations, soli sections, vamps, and rhythmic hits) in the genre that feature the strengths of this talented and professional quartet. "A Shade of Jade", the classic Joe Henderson number, is four minutes and forty-two seconds of jazz excitement. Michael Spiro and Paul Van Wageningen get down! Swinging here, Afro-Cuban there and grooving hard throughout. "Inner Urge", the other Henderson chart on the session, sounds as if it was written for this group. Peter Barshay’s bass is featured on a neat arrangement of the melody and in an extended solo, not to mention the intricate vamp section behind the percussion solos. The recording closes with a red-hot six-eight treatment of Stanley Turrentine’s "Sugar" with fine, pointed solos from all the members of the ensemble.
As is the case with all masterpieces, you’re left wanting more - just a little bit more of this extraordinary music.
Personnel: Mark Levine, Piano, Michael Spiro, Percussion, Peter Barshay, Bass, Paul Van Wageningen, Drums, Jose Luis Gomez, Abakua nkame