Learn How

Help improve All About Jazz

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. For $20, we'll hide those pesky Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

8

Diego Rivera: The Contender

Jud Branam By

Sign in to view read count
Diego Rivera: Diego Rivera: The Contender Like the famous muralist from whom he got his name, Michigan tenor saxophonist Diego Rivera covers a lot of stylistic ground while adhering to a workmanlike theme on his new CD, The Contender.

Rivera leads a powerful sextet through an 11-song set of brawny, orthodox post-bop that carries on the blowing session tradition in the best sense of the phrase.

The title-track opener sets an aggressive and upbeat mood with an angular, John Coltrane-styled sax intro by Rivera, backed by some hot call-and-response from trumpeter Greg Gisbert. The song sets a great tone for the rest of the session as Rivera, Gisbert and trombonist Michael Dease trade fluid solos and the rhythm section of pianist Miki Hayama, bassist Rodney Whitaker and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr. lays down a rock-solid platform to dive from.

The next track, El Pachuco, "The Hipster" in Latin culture, is just that, growing assuredly from lovely harmony lines in the head into a hard, swinging tenor lead. It gets a boost from the always fat, woody tones of bassist Whitaker.

Rivera, like Whitaker and Dease a professor of jazz studies at Michigan State University, shows he's knows what he's teaching with a tight, tuneful set that's alternately New York spiky and Latin fluid. What's more, the record has a terrific sound to it, with a nod to recording at Owens' AlleyCat Studios.

Singer Bria Skonberg lends a world-weary and heartfelt ambience to Rivera's "Don't...Can't... Won't," a sweet ballad he composed to honor his love and connection with his wife, Maria. Whitaker and Hayama provide a smooth piano trio accompaniment that delivers the earnest mood.

Energy comes back up for Jerome Kern's "Yesterdays," highlighted by Rivera's strong tenor lead, some well-arranged ensemble play and a crashing drum track from Owens.

Lots of Stevie Wonder tunes get borrowed by jazz players, but it's hard to find one that sets up more seamlessly for combo jazz than "My Cherie Amour." This take is less reinterpretation than celebration and works beautifully, punctuated by a lovely, bouncing solo by pianist Hayama.

Swinging cool jazz is the order on Rivera's "The Whit," in which Whitaker's stellar bass tone gets mixed up front in a great bit of mixology right up there with a well-poured Scotch and soda. Every instrument sounds delicious on this one, from fat piano keys to a grin-inducing sax-bass unison line.

Two figures admired by Rivera get nods on the next tunes. "Frida" pays an homage to the muralist's wife and muse, Frida Kahlo, followed by a take on Horace Silver's classic "Silver's Serenade." Both are in keeping with the rest of the record: swinging, high-level and great sounding.

Hard bop purists will enjoy "Little Giant," in which Rivera pays homage to Johnny Griffin with a tight, cooking jam, replete with the brisk tempo and soaring licks suited to the honoree. Behn Gillece adds a swinging vibraphone solo to the outstanding mix.

The set wraps up with "Tinte Latino," a Rivera meditation on the idea of jazz, the quintessential American music, having deep African roots in South America. The set triumphs because it is what it sets out to be: a great new jazz record for people who love great old jazz records.


Track Listing: The Contender; El Pachuco; Don't...Can't...Won't...; Yesterdays; Para Los Muertos; My Cherie Amour; The Whit; Frida; Silver's Serenade; Little Giant; Tinte Latino.

Personnel: Diego Rivera: tenor & soprano saxophones; Greg Gisbert: trumpet; Michael Dease: trombone; Miki Hayama: piano; Rodney Whitaker: bass; Ulysses Owens Jr.: drums; Bria Skonberg: vocals; Behn Gillece: vibraphone; Andrew Swift: percussion.

Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: D Clef Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read The Rolling Stones: Blue and Lonesome Extended Analysis The Rolling Stones: Blue and Lonesome
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: November 27, 2016
Read Nat Birchall: Creation Extended Analysis Nat Birchall: Creation
by Phil Barnes
Published: November 23, 2016
Read Harvey Mandel: Snake Pit Extended Analysis Harvey Mandel: Snake Pit
by Doug Collette
Published: November 19, 2016
Read Leonard Cohen: You Want it Darker Extended Analysis Leonard Cohen: You Want it Darker
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: November 13, 2016
Read King Crimson: On (and Off) The Road Extended Analysis King Crimson: On (and Off) The Road
by John Kelman
Published: November 13, 2016
Read "Big Star: Complete Third" Extended Analysis Big Star: Complete Third
by Doug Collette
Published: October 15, 2016
Read "Ian Hunter: Fingers Crossed" Extended Analysis Ian Hunter: Fingers Crossed
by Doug Collette
Published: October 30, 2016
Read "Marcus King: The Marcus King Band" Extended Analysis Marcus King: The Marcus King Band
by Doug Collette
Published: October 8, 2016
Read "Tony Williams: Life Time" Extended Analysis Tony Williams: Life Time
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: July 12, 2016
Read "Vitor Pereira Quintet: New World" Extended Analysis Vitor Pereira Quintet: New World
by Phil Barnes
Published: March 29, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Get Jazz Near You via email!

Enjoy the convenience of receiving a comprehensive listing of jazz events in your area every Thursday. It's free!