Harvie S's inimitable, fearless and fun-filled approach to Latin jazz reaches a new pinnacle on Funky Cha. The bassist's musical sensibilities couldn't be summed up better than on the opening track, a re-visioning of Monk's "Rhythm-A-Ning. His bass and Daniel Kelly's piano pulse out Thelonian arhythmic fragments over Beaver Bausch's tappy drum groove, building in quirky intensity until we're jumping to find out where they're going with it. Jay Collins, the final piece of the puzzle, leaps in with the melody on tenor and reveals how nicely everything fits together.
This kind of hand-in-glove development has characterized Harvie's brand of jazz over the past several years, demonstrating why he's not only one of the best bassists in the land but also one heck of a small-group conceptualist. His Latin beats are definably Latin but consistently fresh; there are no generic mercado rhythms here.
Much of that, of course, is due to the company S keeps. Kelly slides smoothly between montuno and bebop; Bausch is a subtle drum master, and the added presence of Chembo and Ernie Colon pushes him ever higher; Collins is always tasteful and flexible. Only Kelly and tenor man Scott Robert Avidon, who guests on three tracks, are carryovers from S's last album, Texas Rumba, yet the full band sounds as if it has been together for years. This is a hallmark of musicianship, and one of many reasons why Funky Cha is impressive.
Harvie loves Monk as much as Latin sounds, and the influences meld well on tunes like "A Bright Moment, one of the more pensive tracks (until things really get rolling). He recorded the tune earlier for New Beginning but sharply reinvents it for this session. The perfectly named title track, Kelly's gorgeous interpretation of "What Is This Thing Called Love, and the tense modernity of "'S' reflect different facets of this taut ensemble's personality. They even succeed at the difficult fusion of jazz and the manic guaracha rhythm on Kelly's "Earquake. Outstanding, as expected.
Rhythm-a-ning; C7 Heaven; Mariposa en Mano; Earquake;
Harvie S: acoustic bass; Daniel Kelly: piano; William
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