At some point in their artistic development, every Latin Jazz musician studies the genre's forefathers, including Dizzy Gillespie, Machito (Francisco Raúl Gutiérrez Grillo) and Tito Puente. After the study ends, the musician must decide to approach tradition as a museum curator or an active experimenter. The museum curator creates replications of "classic material, closely imitating the original works. This requires extensive technical skill, but it limits creativity to the given model. The active experimenter fuses past musical concepts with new ideas, creating an original product rooted in history. Percussionist and drummer Bobby Sanabria clearly takes on the role of active experimenter on Big Band Urban Folktales.
Sanabria's band applies an astounding array of rhythm section feels and arranging techniques in daring directions. "El Lider moves jazz harmonies through a Puerto Rican bomba and then into a funkier version with a disco rhythm on the drum kit. The rhythm section travels through a bolero, samba, and jazz waltz on "O Som Do Sol, pulled together by the piece's melodic invention. The regular use of clapping, shouting, and band vocals brings out a Mingus feel to many of the songs. Sanabria even introduces progressive rock into the Latin jazz world with a version of Frank Zappa's "The Grand Wazoo. This unexpected song thrives as it explores a bembe rhythm, rumba Guaguanco, blues shuffle, and even some free improvisation. The music delves into a variety of styles, reflecting the band's impressive artistic depth.
Innovative arrangements are the starting points for these musicians, as they consistently deliver inspired performances. Dueling trumpets battle through a comparsa rhythm on "El Aché De Sanabria En Moderación eventually evolving into a bembe rhythm for Peter Brainin's searing soprano sax solo. Vocalist Chareneé Wade boldly creates one of the highlights with her version of "Since I Fell For You. She sings through a bolero with the emotional strength of a classic jazz vocalist, and then when the band breaks out a cha-cha-chá vamp, Wade scats with a soul that would make Ella Fitzgerald proud. Sanabria displays a diverse musicianship on "Blues for Booty Shakers with an inventive vibes solo over a standard blues swing. The band performs with variance and professionalism that constantly conveys excitement and surprise.
Big Band Urban Folktales reflects Sanabria's understanding of upholding tradition through risk and experimentation. That was the soul of the forefathers Gillespie, Puente, and Machitowho attempted to bring different musical heritages together into something unique. That set them apart from their contemporaries, and in turn, that bravado creates an individual voice for Sanabria's Big Band. This recording has more in common with the legends than many of the stale tributes that have come before. It sets the bar higher through Sanabria's integrity, knowledge, and experimentationand it adds one more important listen for musicians considering their artistic identity.
Track Listing: 57th St. Mambo; Pink; Since I Fell For You; D Train; El Lider; El Ache De Sanabria En Moderacion; Besame Mucho; The Crab; O Som Do Sol; Blues For Booty Shakers; The Grand Wazoo; Obrigado Mestre.
Personnel: Bobby Sanabria: musical director, drumset, timbalitos, bat
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