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Manhattan Vibes: Blue November

Dan Bilawsky By

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Manhattan Vibes is a spot-on double entendre, referencing the vibraphone focal point that is Christos Rafalides and the hustle and bustle of the world's busiest city, which manifests itself in the group's music. Rafalides, who hails from Kozani, Greece and adopted New York as his new home, waited more than a decade to make a follow-up to the band's self titled debut, but it was worth the wait.

The personnel line-up on Blue November is completely different from its predecessor, but equally potent. The reconfigured Manhattan Vibes is a piano trio-plus-vibraphone/marimba grouping that explores the ins-and-outs of pan-Latin jazz. A strong Chick Corea influence comes through in the music, whether fused with a tropical sound, à la vibraphonist Dave Samuels ("718"), or dosed with a hint of Mediterranean lust and a touch of Middle Eastern dust ("Sorayia"). Elsewhere, the band gets its slow groove on ("Blue November"), turns an old chestnut on its head with a Latin rewrite in nine ("Love Is A Many Splendored Thing"), delivers mellow jewels that unfold into something more ("Days Of Silence"), and visits Brazil with a bouncy affair ("Samba Wa"). Rafalides closes out the program with a solo vibraphone performance that puts all of his many gifts on display ("Whisper Magic").

The influence of Rafalides' mentor and occasional duet partner—vibraphonist Joe Locke—isn't lost on this music, but it's simply one ingredient in the complex recipe that is Manhattan Vibes. Pianist Sergio Salvatore, another mano-a-mano duo companion of Rafalides, syncs up wonderfully with the vibraphonist, matching his charisma and Latin-infused charm pound-for-pound. Drummer Vince Cherico can drive the music when necessary, but he also displays a sensitive touch that doesn't overpower. Bassist Mike Pope, who also works with Locke, is superb at every turn, whether soloing or holding down the fort.

Blue November is full of charm, excitement, class and in-the-pocket grooves. Manhattan Vibes has captured all that's right with its namesake city in this ten-song program.

Track Listing: 718; Blue November; Sorayia; Red And Black; Love Is A Many Splendored Thing; Days Of Silence; Unrequited; Smile; Samba Wa; Whisper Magic.

Personnel: Christos Rafalides: vibraphone, marimba; Sergio Salvatore: piano; Mike Pope: bass; Vince Cherico: drums, percussion.

Title: Blue November | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Self Produced

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