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I've always been fond of Latin music but have often been turned off because so much of it is vocal. No such problem here; everything is instrumental, and even though most of the guys in Cal State University Sacramento's Latin Jazz Ensemble are Anglo, their rhythmic awareness invests the music with an authenticity reminiscent of the most seasoned groups from south of the border.
In other words, they play Latin the way it is meant to be played, choosing the proper tempos and letting the melodies and harmonies flow naturally and speak for themselves. Much depends, of course, on the rhythm section, and the CSUS ensemble has a good one, with Andro Rios (bongos, percussion), Esteban Varelas (congas, percussion) and Tyler Blanton (vibes, timbales, percussion) reinforcing the core grouppianist Matt McFarland, bassist Matt Robinson and drummer Mike Johnston. Dominic Garcia (timbales) sits in on "Song for Chano."?
The front line isn't bad either, with director Steve Roach on trumpet alongside alto Jon Hoops, tenor Aaron Thurman, baritone Cory Cunningham and trombonist Chris Cook. Solos are relatively brief but nonetheless meaty. Album details are sparse, and no composer/arranger credits are given. The opening number, "Chucho,"? was presumably written as a tribute to pianist Chucho Valdes, "Song for Chano"? for the great percussionist Chano Pozo. I can't identify all of the various rhythms by name, but there is a cheerful "Midnight Mambo,"? and the session closes with a vigorous "Cha-Cha-Cha."?
The CSUS ensemble has a clear respect for the Latin tradition and plays the music, as the album's title suggests, Con Sentimiento. Best of all, there are no vocals. The recorded sound, it must be noted, is nothing to applaud, nor is the 42:24 playing time.
Track Listing: Chucho; Linda Chicana; Dance of Denial; Varadero Blues; Midnight Mambo; Song for Chano; Cha-Cha-Cha (42:24).
Personnel: Steve Roach, director, trumpet; Aaron Thurman, tenor sax; Jon Hoops, alto sax; Cory Cunningham, trombone; Chris Cook, baritone sax; Andro Rios, bongos, percussion; Esteban Varelas, congas, percussion; Tyler Blanton, vibes, timbales, percussion; Dominic Garcia (6), timbales; Matt McFarland, piano; Matt Robinson, bass; Mike Johnston, drums.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.