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Changüi, a mix of Spanish guitar and African percussion, carries at its core a relentless churning. Toiling rhythms kick up bits of cultural history that fall in layers, like the overlapping generations from the old and the new country who made their way though the Caribbean to New York. Benjamin Lapidus' "East of el Son, Wes del Tres, the second track on this album, simmers with the sharp twang of the tres guitar, the swift shift of maracas and the ubiquitous vocal stream that runs forth in a garrulous, almost reverent monotony, as if this Cuban tale is meant to be repeated. Often.
The album is titled Vive Jazz!, "Jazz Lives. Not Viva Jazz, "Long Live Jazz, Lapidus explained last month at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, where Sonido Isleño performed for a spirited but relaxed crowd peppered with grandpas, toddlers, and a pair of glammed out ladies in bright colors and flashy jewelry, indulging in sugary white cake, beer, and wine.
Various band members waited in the audience for their turn on stage, including Lapidus' wife, who left a sleeping baby with her father-in-law before stepping up beside her husband for the album's title track. She spoke the urgent Spanish words of fourteen year-old Manuel Antonio Dueñas Peluffo, whose poem Lapidus set to music. Mrs. Lapidus' live rendition was bright and full of alacrity, in contrast to Alberto Levy's submissive recorded version.
Matt Ray's piano, Harvie S' bass, and William Bausch's drums set a solid bebop foundation for the horn interludes that trade places with the spoken word. Paul Carlon's tenor saxophone breaks through with a deep, textured tone, while his flute's subtle groove adds an element that recalls a smoky beatnik club. Greg Glassman adds a tremendous force on trumpet with a stunning, florid solo that seems free of boundaries. A myriad of percussion instruments provide nonstop energy on the rest of the track as it releases into a celebratory group chorus led by Pedro Pablo Martinez.
The festive atmosphere, tinged with nostalgia, remains throughout the album. "Heebaro, a tribute to Lapidus' Jewish/Latin neighborhood, resonates with vibrant, mingling guitars, while "Ornetteando, named for Ornette Coleman, careens with lively horns. Lapidus honors his family with two tracks on the disc. He makes his guitar glow on "M&D, a sweet, personal homage to his mom and dad; and tributes his mother-in-law with "La Suegra," a saucy number that bursts with piquant conga passages, sparking up a vivacious evening that ended with dozing babies and a tireless couple dancing the samba in the corner.
Track Listing: La Suegra;
East of el Son, Wes del Tres;
Green Mill Mambo;
Dialectics of a Soplapote.
Personnel: Benjamin Lapidus: guitar, tres, cuatro, mar?-mbula, coro;
Francisco Javier Cotto: bass guitar, electric upright, coro;
Felix Sanabria: congas, chekere, pandereta;
Michael Molina: bongó, campana, chekere, pandereta;
Hector M. Torres: timbales, güiro, coro;
Paul Carlon: tenor saxophone, flute;
Evan Rapport: alto saxophone (9);
Matt Ray: piano (4);
Harvie S: bass (4);
William Bausch: drumset (4);
Greg Glassman: trumpet (4);
Pedro Pablo Mart?-nez: lead vocals, coro (4);
Alberto First Mate Bertie Joe Levy: poem recitation (4);
Jonathan Troncoso: tambora (6);
Juan Usera: pandereta (10);
Jainardo Batista: gu?-a, coro, maracas (2); gu?-a, coro (7);
Antonio DeVivo: coro, bongó de monte, guayo (2)