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Certainly no household name, pianist Bill O'Connell works on the sidelines without much fanfare and his last album was nearly ten years ago for the short-lived return of Creed Taylor's CTI label. But there's something to be said for life experiences and O'Connell's time spent with Mongo Santamaria and Dave Valentin, not to mention subbing for Larry Willis in the Fort Apache Band, helped to endear him to the Afro-Cuban idiom that he manages to luxuriate in throughout Black Sand.
An undeniably mature and satisfying statement, this set features eleven originals by the pianist and one jazz standard that sit squarely within the idiom and feature Dave Valentin, Charles Fambrough, Steve Berrios, Joe Ford, and Milton Cardona. Of course, these names will be familiar to followers of Latin Jazz. O'Connell's writing favors the kind of structures which establish a strong groove while allowing for ample solo space. "Obakoso" even goes for a stripped-down percussion display by Milton Cardona recalling the folkloric tradition of Santaria. It's all pretty heady stuff that makes you wonder why O'Connell doesn't step out more often as a leader.
Track Listing: Latin Jazz, Black Sand, Blue Brazil, Obakoso, Alhamba, Kidz, Fire Dance, Gentle Rumba, Son of a Montuno, Trepidation, Iguana, It's Alright with Me.
Personnel: Bill O'Connell (piano), Andy Gonzalez & Charles Fambrough (bass), Steve Berrios (drums), Joe Ford (alto & soprano sax), Randy Brecker (trumpet), Dave Valentin (flute), Milton Cardona (congas & vocals), Carole Robinson (vocals), Sergio Cardona (percussion)
I love jazz because it mixes intellect and emotion in a very spontaneous way.
I was first exposed to jazz by liberating a Coltrane and a Pharoah Sanders record from a friend in NYC and listening to them over and over until I got it.
My advice to new listeners is you have to take the time to listen to some jazz tunes a number of times until it starts to make sense.