Afro Bop Alliance: Angel Eyes

Edward Blanco By

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Afro Bop Alliance: Angel Eyes
Latin Grammy Award-winning group Afro Bop Alliance lend their infectious hard-driving and percussive Latin-tinged sound to Angel Eyes, the group's fifth album staking one more claim for yet another future Latin Grammy nod. Known for their percolating percussion as well as dipping into straight ahead jazz, this Washington D.C. based octet lets the rumba rumble, the cha-cha churn and the samba simmer on another exciting energizing album of note. Led by drummer/percussionist and Afro Bop Alliance founder Joe McCarthy, the band also consist of a three-piece horn section a bassist, pianist, a vocalist and Victor Provost on the steel pans. Also making special appearances are Grammy Award-winning reed man Paquito D'Rivera and percussionist Roberto Quintero as well as The St. Claire Chamber Strings on one track.

The beat starts bopping right from the album's gyrating opener "The Jinx," written by bassist Tom Baldwin and arranged by alto saxophonist Vince Norman, it includes interludes by pianist Harry Appelman followed by strong solo moments from tenor saxophonist Luis Hernandez and McCarthy on conga—all setting the stage for what's to come. "Three for Juju" is a much more intricate piece of music that McCarthy explains is "based on a joropo groove from Venezuela." Baldwin's "Ziggy the Crooner" is a straight Latin cha-cha-cha featuring Provost's steel pans, Norman's alto saxophone voice and the hot sounds of trumpeter Tim Stanley along with a superb bass solo and nice interchange between the two percussionist (McCarthy and Quintero).

Pianist Appelman's arrangement puts an interesting twist on Horace Silver's "Barbara," while Provost's original "Homanaje" which features the steel pans in the lead, also highlights special guests Quintero on steamy conga work and D'Rivera on a sizzling clarinet for one of the best burners of the album. Vocalist Sara Jones takes center stage on the classic Eden Ahbez standard "Nature Boy" in perhaps, the most humbling tune of the set, enhanced by The St. Claire Chamber Strings which includes violinist—and Joe McCarthy's wife—Paula McCarthy.

Norman's arrangement of Joe Henderson's jazz standard "Inner Urge" turns the piece into an almost unrecognizable and improvised Latin blazer with explosive drum solos, a Hernandez tenor romp and a bit of the steel pans to dice it all up. The Matt Dennis oft-recorded standard "Angel Eyes" takes a heavy percussive bath with both McCarthy and Quintero laying down the hard beats as trumpeter Stanley tees off on the melody joined by another sweet solo shot from tenor saxophonist making this title-piece one of the highlights of the disc.

The gyrating shoulder-moving rhythms begin winding down on the Latin rendition of Wayne Shorter's "This Is For Albert" and comes to an end on with Provost's last original "Minor Details," showcasing Norman's alto, the steel pans, Appleman on the electric piano and wordless vocals by the composer and Ms. Jones. McCarthy and crew turn the heat up once again demonstrating quite well why Afro Bop Alliance continues to be a moving force in jazz and Angel Eyes, is another reason why.

Track Listing

The Jinx; Three For Juju; Ziggy the Crooner; Barbara; Homenaje; Nature Boy; Inner Urge; Fete Antilles; Angel Eyes; This Is For Albert; Minor Details.


Joe McCarthy: drums, percussion, congas (8); Harry Appleman: piano; Tom Baldwin: bass; Victor Provost: steel pans, vocals (11); Luis Hernandez: tenor saxophone; Vince Norman: alto saxophone; Tim Stanley: trumpet; Sara Jones: vocals (6, 11); Paula McCarthy: violin (6); Suzanne Orban: cello (6); The St. Claire Chamber Strings (6); Paquito D'Rivera: clarinet (5); Roberto Quintero: percussion, congas.

Album information

Title: Angel Eyes | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Zoho Music

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