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Francisco Aguabella: H2O

Jim Santella By

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Francisco Aguabella: H2O Led by veteran conguero Francisco Aguabella, this nine-piece Latin jazz ensemble turns up the heat while making solid references to tradition. Aguabella, who was born in Cuba, immigrated to the United States in 1957 and has lived in San Francisco & Los Angeles most of the years since. His discography lists dates with everyone from Tito Puente to Weather Report and Louie Bellson. There’s even a reference to the soundtrack of French Connection II with Don Ellis.

Released this past month, the session lasts a mere 45 minutes, and some of that is lightweight salsa. "Vencido," featuring the horns in a balanced attack with trumpet and tenor saxophone sharing the spotlight, serves as the session’s highlight. The two searing horns get a big boost from piano and congas, providing an example of what an excellent Afro-Cuban rhythm section should be able to do. Nengue Hernandez’ lead Spanish vocals and his answering chorus lend the kinds of male singing voices that spell tradition with a capital T. Surprisingly, veteran trombonist Dan Weinstein overblows throughout the session, while trumpeter Luis Gonzalez prefers to remain in the background. His trumpet feature on the ballad "Son To Any Kid" provides both open and tightly muted horn. An outstanding pianist, Joe Rotondi, Jr. stays in the rhythmic background except for his strong montuno patterns. Tenor saxophonist Charlie Owens offers some exciting blowing, particularly on "Nena," and "Quien Eres Tu," where he stretches out liberally to contrast with the more traditional singing. Conguero Aguabella works out in brief spurts - leading his ensemble without stealing the spotlight - blending salsa with traditional Afro-Cuban material.


Track Listing: Short Story; Quien Eres Tu; Wood Place; Nena; Cavalie; Son to Any Kid; Intensity; Vencido; Caito; Danzonete.

Personnel: Francisco Aguabella- conga, bata, percussion, background vocals; Joe Rotondi, Jr.- piano; Jonathan Pintoff- electric bass; Luis Gonzalez- trumpet; Charles Owens- tenor saxophone, clarinet on "Danzonete;" Dan Weinstein- trombone; Nengue Hernandez- lead vocal, timbales, background vocals; David Romero- bongo; Ed Smith- drums; Orlando Lopez- background vocals.

Title: H2O | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Cubop


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