Bassist/Composer Harvie S made two good decisions when producing his latest release, Texas Rumba : he emphasized his turn towards Latin Jazz, and he recorded it live, thus presenting to best advantage his bands ability to build energy, keep loose, and entertain.
Unfortunately, the latter choice compromised the sound quality, leaving the recording at times muddy and soft. Despite this handicap, Texas Rumba captures on disc Harvie S’s transformation into a full-blown Latin jazz enthusiast. In fact, Mr. S’s compositions and playing have become so immersed in Latin influences that his performance is at its best the closer he sticks to the Afro-Cuban and other Latin material he has absorbed over the past few years of experimentation and study.
Tunes like the title track and the subsequent “Good News” brim with the kind of rhythmic movement and positive energy one would want on the stereo while throwing a good party. Likewise, the lively, well-executed tunes “Facil” and “Blindside” reveal Mr. S’s ability to create diverse Latin-based compositions and execute them with inventiveness and rhythmic surety.
However, the leader's forays into slower tempos and ballads prove less successful. With the exceptions of the elegant “Before” and Harvie S’s brief, solo coda “Floating,” these pieces lack compositional depth and even the bassist's tasteful improvisations are unable to keep the band, particularly trumpeter Rivkin, from sliding into the facile, overly earnest territory of smooth jazz. A good example of this is the album’s only standard, “Monk’s Mood.” While Mr. S offers an insightful interpretation of this oft-performed piece, his bandmates’ flat contributions and an overall lack of cohesion overwhelm his promising opening.
Particularly enjoyable for its up-tempo, highly danceable tracks, Texas Rumba , though lacking a certain polish and sophistication, is a balanced album of good, solid party music mixed with a few more experimental moments.
Personnel: Harvie S: Bass;
Daniel Kelly: Piano;
Scott Robert Avidon: Tenor and Soprano Sax;
Renato Thomas: Percussion;
Adam Weber: Drums;
Gregory Rivkin: Trumpet.