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"The glamour of limelight, wrote Charles Chaplin, "from which age must pass as youth enters was his reasoning about the inevitability of death and the need to pass the torch of glory to those that follow. That certainty comes too soon for some, as with Ray Barretto, still performing at the time of his untimely heart attack last January and working on Standards Rican-ditioned, which features several standards played by musicians, like himself, of Puerto Rican background.
It is not, however, an album of songs done from a Latin point of view. Its objective, as the liner notes read, "was to show that they could play in an authentic style of the old Blue Note, Riverside and Prestige dates of the 1950s and 60s. The musicians clearly achieved their goal across nine tracks (one a Barretto original, "Brandy's Blues , written for his wife). Each swings from the very beginning - pianist Hilton Ruiz lays down a twisting solo on the cheerful "Suddenly It's Spring followed by great improvised moments by saxophonist David Sanchez and trombonist Papo Vazquez. The bluesy "I Had The Craziest Dream features great work by Vasquez, who leads the song for its first half. Bassist John Benitez mostly remains in the background, providing the perfect foundation with drummer Adam Cruz. Ruiz plays alone on the Ellington/Strayhorn composition "Something To Live For , taking full advantage of the liberty that playing solo gives. That is followed by yet another great bluesy moment, "Baby All The Time .
One of the most poignant moments of the album is its final track, "Strange Music . On the day that he was supposed to lay down the congas, Barretto suffered the heart attack that would ultimately claim him. After his passing, son Chris stepped in to play the missing track. The scat vocals you hear were just Ray Barretto's reference to mark where he would overdub the percussion, but upon hearing the song with the vocals, the decision was made to leave it that way - one of these magical, unplanned things in jazz.
To look at jazz from a Latin point of view is a daunting task. How can you play certain tunes and retain both jazz and still keep the roots of a genre? That is the question asked by Chembo Corniel and Andrea Brachfeld on Beyond Standards, who takes songs by Coltrane, Bird and Duke (among others) and make them their own, with help from a considerable roster of players, again including Ruiz, in his last recorded appearance before passing away in June.
Trane's "Transition takes on a different perspective in this arrangement. The congas and the other percussive instruments dominate on this seven minute tour-de-force. On "Naima though things slow down a bit, giving a chance for Ruiz and trombonist Steve Turre to showcase their talents. There is also a beautiful flute solo by Brachfeld, who has a strong choro influence in her playing. Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington would have been proud of the treatment given to their "Chelsea Bridge and "African Flower . The songs still retain some of their original feel, but are also taken to new highs in the hands of these musicians.
The gods of music were smiling at Vancouver's The Cellar on November 17th, 2002. That night, the Linton Garner trio played a late Sunday set and saxophonist Ross Taggart suggested to owner Cory Weeds to set up some mics to document the evening. The decision proved inspired, for it was a magical set that proved to be one of the great pianist's last - he passed away four months later, on March 2003.
Here we hear the trio go through an assortment of songs, opening with the classic Henry Mancini "Days of Wine And Roses , going through Garner's own "Blues For Jimmy Q , all the way to Ellington's "Things Ain't What They Used To Be .
A favorite moment is Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Corcovado (best known as "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars ). Here the song is stripped from its bossa nova origins, getting instead a blues-tinged feel. Taggart mainly improvises using Stan Getz' 1964 version as inspiration. Garner himself uses a more personal approach, contributing a chord-rich solo that had little to do with the sunny beaches of Rio.
The trio sounds as solid as can be and knowing that this was not originally intended to be a live album at first is a credit. The musicians are doing their best and doing it for the audience that night. We are just lucky that the tapes were rolling.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Lean On Me; Trav'Lin Light; Ivy; Suddenly It's Spring; I Had The Craziest Dream; Something To Live For; Baby, Baby All The Time; Brandy's Blues, Strange Music.
Personnel: Ray Barretto: congas, scat vocals; Hilton Ruiz: piano; David Sanchez: tenor; Papo Vasquez: trombone; Chris Barretto: alto sax, congas; John Benitez: bass; Adam Cruz: drums.
Tracks: Flor de Zampoña; Transition; Naima; Conception; Chelsea Bridge; E.S.P.; African Flower; Freedom Jazz Dance.
Personnel: Andrea Brachfeld: flutes, zampoña, piccolo, piano; Wilson "Chembo" Corniel: congas, batá, bongo, percussion; Hilton Ruiz: piano; Steve Turre: trombone; Carlo de Rosa: bass; Chris Eddleton: drums; Vince Cherico: drums; Sam Bardfeld: violins; Pedrito Martinez, Lisa Maria Salb: vocals; Chris Theberge: batá; David Gomez, batá.
Tracks: Days of Wine and Roses; All The Things You Are; Blues For Jimmy Q; Corcovado; Don't Blame Me; It could Happen to You; Just Friends; Polka Dots and Moonbeams; Things Ain't What They Used To Be.
Personnel: Linton Garner: piano; Ross Taggart: tenor sax; Russ Botten: bass.