Our expectations shape our listening experiences, even before we hear an artist's recorded work. We anticipate musical genres based on a musician's past and assume that the bandleader will be featured prominently. We judge unfamiliar artists on their instrument, album covers, or websites; and then we decide whether that artist deserves our attention. Once we listen to a recording, we constantly compare how the work aligns with our pre-conceived notions. Percussionist Chembo Corniel shatters all expectations on For The Rest of Your Life
with a diverse exploration of Latin jazz approaches.
Many tracks emphasize Latin rhythms, but maintain complex harmonies and open forms found in traditional jazz. A spacious melody glides over a Guaguanco in "Chaworó en la Calle, eventually giving way to flugelhornist John Walsh's nimble jazz phrasing. Saxophonist Ivan Renta meshes bebop melodies and intricate rhythms, before the band breaks down to percussion and vocals. The group revisits Emiliano Salvador's classic "Puerto Padre with a sensitive melodic interpretation. Pianist Tino Derado shapes a personal statement until flautist Oriente Lopéz's rhythmic improvisation moves over a strong montuno. Corniel shines through an assertive conga solo, played with fierce musicality. These tracks clearly display Corniel's balance of rhythmic integrity and focused jazz roots.
Several songs highlight improvisation and intricate harmonic movement while keeping a connection to Latin rhythms. The rhythm section introduces "Rejuvenate with a short vamp until the melody rides over swing and Latin rhythms. Alto saxophonist Bobby Porcelli develops bebop-flavored lines while showcasing fiery Latin syncopations. Vocalist Grady Tate's expressive qualities demand focused attention as "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? builds into a subdued mix of ballad and bolero. Porcelli shapes an introspective statement until Tate completes an album highlight performance. Corniel exposes another side to his experience on these tracks, exploring a variety of jazz approaches.
Other pieces present folkloric rhythms, touching on Cuban traditional music. Vocalist Pedro Martinez opens a short canto on "Orunmila, soon accompanied by Corniel, David Gomez, and Louie Bauzo on bata. The piece's sparse texture creates a defined mood until a strong coro accompanies Martinez. Corniel and Bauzo display their rumbero roots on "Sueña Negrito, playing traditional cajones. Corniel delivers a passionate quinto performance that exposes his deep love for rumba. These authentic songs bring a studied and passionate side to his musicianship.
One might expect a conguero to create a percussion heavy salsa-jazz album, but Corniel easily sidesteps that unfair judgment with a firm connection to both jazz and Latin music. Many songs utilize Latin rhythms, but they work purely as jazz performances. At the same time, Corniel's technique, style, and musical choices constantly reflect his wealth of Latin music experience and in-depth stylistic knowledge. His inclusion of folkloric music displays historical knowledge and commitment to the full breadth of the style. As Corniel reminds us with his outstanding work, expectations should be forgotten and we should simply open our ears and find new, refreshing music.