With well-selected tunes and well-conceived arrangements, the most recent production by the great Puerto Rican trumpet player Julio Alvarado and his group Del Sur al Norte is true to its name.
Changing Routes presents a variety of musical compositions. Julito Alvarado authored seven; two are classics in this genre: John Coltrane’s “Mr. PC.” and “Stella By Starlight” by Ned Washington and Victor Young; and the rest are a medley of ecclesiastical songs honoring Alvarado’s Christian faith. All the tunes are adapted or arranged by Alvarado using various Latin rhythms combined with jazz.
In Alvarado's incursion into Latin jazz, you can appreciate his trumpet's clear and clean sound –in both the mid and high registers– as well as the assurance and the attack the musician shows in the solos. He brings an extraordinary sensibility when interpreting compositions such as “Melodía Para Papá,” revealing his talents as a trumpeter. Furthermore, you will hear trumpet player Alvarado and the group’s trombonist Jorge Díaz united in several passages that highlight their perfect meshing, balance, technique and diction.
From “Del Sur al Norte” until the last tune, “Comparsa Cristiana,” Alvarado maintains a strangely climaxing sense of relaxation for the listener. It is also worth noting Alvarado's elegance in allowing all the group players solos in several tunes –as in the first cut where he presents each of the members with backup singing by Josué Rosado– revealing their amazing musicianship. Another great accomplishment of this record is the amalgamation of several rhythmic patterns: from Guaguancó, Songo, Afro, 6/8, Bomba, Danzón and even Comparsa.
Among the solos, we highlight the involvement of trombonist Jorge Díaz in “4 Months,” a composition in which, after articulating the composition’s main theme with great delicacy, Díaz gets tangled in a give and take with Alvarado, while both show their respective interpretative qualities. In “Stella By Starlight,” revealing his excellence and assurance as an interpreter, accompanied by a tremendous 6/8 rhythmic base, Alvarado uses a well-chosen recourse, the muted trumpet.
Cut five, “De Todo un Poco,” displays formidable solos by pianist Richard Trinidad and conga player William “Kachiro” Thompson. The very flexible “Melodía Para Papá,” the most sublime composition of the compact disk –substantiating its sensible side– closes with incredible strength. Actually, the intervention of Julio Alvarado, Sr. in the clarinet solos is precious and apt, giving the group a pleasing and different sound and tinge.
John Coltrane's classic composition “Mr. P.C.” –one of the most explosive tunes on the record– begins with a magnificent solo from conga player Reynaldo de Jesús, accentuating the speed and strength of his hands. A great and fitting solo by pianist Richard Trinidad can also be appreciated. Shortly thereafter, the trumpeter offers an excellent manifestation which expounds his dominion and power in the high register, followed by a fulminating solo from timbalero Charlie Sierra.
In closing, the Julito Alvarado Del Sur al Norte production Changing Routes fulfills just about every expectation. The cast of musicians -Alvarado, Trinidad, Pérez, Thompson, Sierra, de Jesús, Díaz and guest vocalist Rosado- demonstrates their tremendous interpretative quality.
Contact: JUAL MUSIC/P.O. Box 52292/Levittown Station/Puerto Rico 00950. Tel. 787.460-3871. E-mail: email@example.com.
*The author was percussionist and trap drummer with the Orquesta de Música Moderna de Cuba or Cuba’s Modern Music Orchestra.