Does Latin jazz have to be so, well, Latin? Sometimes it seems that way. Far too often, Latin jazz artists fall prey to overly repetitive syncopation and a tendency to remain stuck in the highest registers of the horns. Your tolerance level depends how long you prefer to stay in the conga line. Fortunately, these are weaknesses that you will not find in drummer Robert Jospés delightfully engaging Time To Play.
Recorded with the very cream of Virginia's jazz musicians and with exceptional sound quality, Time To Play synthesizes the best elements of Latin jazz and hard bop, creating a panoply of songs that are both adventurous and fun.
Jospé's eight-man unit known as Inner Rhythm includes veteran trumpeter and composer John D'earth, vastly undervalued saxophonist Jeff Decker, pianist Bob Hallahan, percussionist Kevin Davis, guitarist Royce Campbell, bassist Pete Spaar, as well as bassist Elias Bailey fresh off Rene Marie's triumphant Live At Jazz Standard. Each member is given his moment to shine in these layered arrangements, but together they create a full sound that delivers great energy and emotion.
On the seductive samba "Stone Flower," the memorable eight-bar trade-offs between Decker's soprano and D'earth's trumpet are infectious, as is Decker's clearly articulated, obtuse attack on his solo. The exquisite "Estaté" features a lilting melody by Decker with a delicate contribution from Campbell on acoustic guitar and "Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise" is an excellent showcase for Bailey's thick-toned pizzicato improvising. But when this group gets cooking—and they do quite often—they really set the studio on fire. D'earth and Decker have a rollicking time on the theme of "Time To Play," while "Pele" is a real tour de force with Hallahan's free- flowing phrases and fiery playing by D'earth. Best of all is the irresistibly funky "Help Yourself," which features a catchy riff by Decker on tenor and the funkiest groove this side of the New Orleans Meters.
Throughout it all, Jospé and Davis imbue each song with just the right amount of Latin hot sauce. Many of the tracks on Time To Play can't help but generate energy with Jospés incredibly powerful backbeat. All told, this is the kind of jazz album that's just as rewarding to listen to as it is to dance to. In other words, now is the time to play Time To Play.
Personnel: Robert Jospe': drum set, log drums, percussion.
Kevin Davis: congas, bongos, timbales, percussion.
Bob Hallahan: piano.
Jeff Decker: tenor and soprano saxophones.
John D'earth: trumpet, coronet, flugelhorn.
Royce Campbell: guitar.
Pete Spaar: bass.
Elias Bailey: bass.