The Puppeteers: The Puppeteers (2014)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
For six years, until May 2011, Puppet's Jazz in Brooklyn hosted sessions by many fine jazz musicians. Four of those musicians, including the club's co-founder, drummer Jaime Affoumado, come together on The Puppeteers, a collection of tunes inspired by hard bop, Latin, funk and many other welcome influences. The club may no longer be around, but its legacy lives on in The Puppeteers and their excellent self-titled debut album.
From the familiar opening phrase of bassist Alex Blake's "On The Spot"familiar because it's the classic "Giant Steps" opening phraseThe Puppeteers are off and running. The band's energy is palpable, not least in Affoumado's muscular drums and Blake's explosively tough bass solo. "Jumping," another Blake number, channels the players' irrepressible energy into a gentle, mid-tempo, swing. This time the spotlight shines on Bill Ware's vibes and Arturo O'Farrill's piano.
The tunes tumble out of the speakers. Blake's lovely, waltz-time, "Peaceful Moment" provides a few minutes of calm restraint before the band cuts loose again. O'Farrill's "In Whom" is underpinned by Blake's pumping bass guitar. Ware's "Bio Diesel" centers on his own melodic vibes while Papo Vasquez' "Not Now Right Now" is enlivened by fine ensemble playing as well as solos from all four musicians. Affoumado's "Dreams Of Dad" starts off as if it's about to become a full-on funk workout then settles into a gently swinging groove. The fast-paced "Lonely Days Are Gone" and "The Right Time," both Ware compositions, complete the album with a flourish.
Across the nine tunes The Puppeteers demonstrate pretty much every positive attribute of the performing musicianemotional engagement, power, control, swing, technical skill, are there in abundance. Above all, the musicians have fun and sound like they're having fun. The Puppeteers sounds like the recording sessions were a blast from start to finish. Listening is just as big a blast.
Track Listing: On The Spot; Jumping; In Whom; Peaceful Moment; Bio Diesel; Dreams Of Dad; Not Now Right Now; Lonely Days Are Gone; The Right Time.
Personnel: Arturo O'Farrill: piano; Bill Ware: vibraphone; Alex Blake: double bass, bass guitar; Jaime Affoumado: drums.
Record Label: Puppet's Records