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Zaccai Curtis: Cubop Lives!


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Zaccai Curtis: Cubop Lives!
Pianist Zaccai Curtis's recent album Cubop Lives! is a vibrant acknowledgement of the rich legacy of bebop and Afro-Cuban jazz offering a compelling blend that respects tradition while infusing it with a contemporary flair. Backed by a scintillating ensemble of top-flight exponents of the style, including bassist Luques Curtis, drummer Willie Martinez III, conguero Camilo Molina and on bongos Reinaldo de Jesus, the group dives into an extended track list of seventeen compositions comprising Curtis originals, bebop classics, American Songbook standards and several numbers that pay tribute to one of Curtis' favourite piano players, Noro Morales.

The session opens with a couple of Curtis originals, namely "Earl" and "Black Rice," which were specifically written for a small group. In both these numbers, the tone is set by Curtis' lively piano lines backed by syncopated rhythms showcasing the group's technical prowess and musicality. Thelonious Monk's nod to bebop "52nd Street Theme" has a rhythmic and tonal structure that is rarely associated with the number but provides a vibrancy that sets up home in the piece.

Two bop soulmates, pianist Ray Bryant and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, each contribute one of their signature compositions to this session; namely "Cuban Fantasy" and "Woody'N You." Both compositions are driven by the powerful rhythm section anchored by Luques Curtis' big-toned bass. This robust foundation allows Zaccai Curtis' piano to dance fluidly with his inventive solos that respect the bebop tradition. One of the well-known standards is "Someday My Prince Will Come," written by Frank Churchill and Larry Morey for the 1937 Walt Disney movie "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Curtis generates his interpretation from the likes of Jerry Gonzalez & The Fort Apache Band. His skilful and sparkling piano skips and leaps around the chart's rhythmic elements.

The Morales suite of four compositions begins with "Maria Cervantes," followed by "Oye Men," then "Stromboli" and finally "Rumbambola." At the height of his fame in the early sixties when Morales led sextet sessions of rumba records, he used the piano for both melody and rhythm which was highly innovative at that moment. Throughout this song cycle, whether on solo piano or backed by the rhythm section, Curtis makes the numbers his own, blending the elements in an organic and unforced way.

The closing composition is by the bebop master Charlie Parker's "Moose The Mooche." Grounded in the sway of the cha-cha rhythm, Curtis' performance is both virtuosic and joyous, reflecting his appreciation for Parker's music and the Afro-Cuban tradition.

Track Listing

Earl; Black Rice; 52nd Street Theme; When I Fall In Love; Cuban Fantasy; Woody'N You; Someday My Prince Will Come; Let's Do It Again; Jazzin'; Maria Cervantes; Oye Man; Stromboli; Rumbambola; Maple Leaf Rag; Contour; Minor's Holiday; Moose The Mooche.


Album information

Title: Cubop Lives! | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Truth Revolution Records

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