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Ever since the arrival of Machito and Mario Bauza in Spanish Harlem in the '30s, New York has been a hotbed of Latin jazz activism, a vital corner of an artistic triangle cross-pollinated by African and Cuban cultures. Saxophonist/conguero Hilary Noble and pianist Rebecca Cline might not be the original mambo king and queen, but with their new release, Enclave, they've come up with hardy hybrid in the best tradition of jazz eclecticism: a mixing of Downtown ecstatica with south-of-the-border sensibilities.
Enclavea bilingual pun on enclave (meaning microcommunity) and the Spanish "in the clave cleverly encapsulates the ability of Latin jazz to speak musical Esperanto in a local dialect. Noble and Cline are fluent conversationalists who add accents of their own. Check out Cline's idiosyncratic montunos, her audacious but effective head arrangement of "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To a condensed hodgepodge of South American groovesand her seemingly endless supply of rhythmic ideas and piano textures. Cline's improvising recalls the compositional techniques of Chopin, where melodic architecture is generated through a combination of harmonic embroidery and thematic development, and her rhythmic conception is daring, treading that fine line between push and pull that breathes life into the pulse.
Noble speaks in many tongues here: his virile, hard bop tenor on the opening cha-cha "Cha-nando sounds like an edgy Hank Mobley or Dexter Gordon, while his magnificent soprano solo on "Dragon Slayer draws on post-Coltrane energy playing, as does his promethean excursion on "Once Eleven what starts out as innocent swing turns ugly beautiful when Noble opens up a can of Ayler-esque whoop-ass. Noble also plays flute on "Viva Freire, a funky samba, and "Comfort Zone, and lays down some serious conga work on "Once Eleven.
Supported by electric bassist Fernando Huergo, who performs a self-harmonized introduction to "Dark Nebula, and the unobtrusive ebullience of Steve Langone, the recording bubbles over with improvised enthusiasm; there's even a moment of musical metaphysics during "Dark Nebula when the floor opens up for group 'discussion.'
At their CD release party at Cornelia Street Café last month, these musicians gave a spirited live rendition of the album, track for track, manifesting the interpersonal chemistry, collaborative individualism, and collective aché (positive vibes) that make this musical aggregation so much more than the sum of its partners. Enclave crosses new borders in Latin jazz, proving that things are often found, not lost, in translation.
Track Listing: Cha-nando; viva Freire; Dragon Slayer; You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To; Eleven
ruminations; Once Eleven; Dark Nebula; Comfort Zone; Rumbanations.
Personnel: Hilary Noble: tenor, soprano, and alto saxophones, flute, congas, cajon, djembe, cymbal,
palitos, cowbells, shekere, snare drum & claves; Rebecca Cline: piano; Fernando Huergo:
electric bass; Steve Langone: drums.