Music reflects an artist's life, revealing both their current musical state and developmental path. Young musicians often produce frenetic and overwhelming music, filled with fresh and creative approaches. They display an early developmental stage, exploring their chosen art form's possibilities. Some musicians produce passionate and insightful music, expressing a search for understanding. Their art evolves into an investigation of their own voice and spirituality. Pianist Hector Contreras creates joyful exuberance on his debut, Hector Contreras and His Latin Jazz Ensemble, revealing a strong musical foundation built upon a life of varied experiences.
Contreras' songwriting exposes years of musical study and immersion in Latin music. The traditional foundation of "Pasadena Cha-Cha starts with Contreras' minor montuno and moves into an expressive melody. A funk aesthetic underlies the clave on "Its All Good, pushed forward by a rhythmic line and drummer Raul Pineda's backbeat. Bassist Rigoberto Lopez's slap bass drives the song further into funk before Contreras introduces a timba montuno and a melodic solo.
The band dips into Brazilian music with "Samba For You, a piece geared for radio play. The song's string synthesizer patches maintain the calm feel, broken only by Frank Fontaine's energetic soprano sax solo. Arturo Solar's insightful flugelhorn melody anchors the bolero "Tu Y Yo, which builds into a Cha Cha Cha for his trumpet solo. Contreras' varied and creative songwriting approaches reflect a lifelong exploration of Latin styles, combined with his musical invention.
The players consistently respond to Contreras' vision, providing several attention-grabbing performances. The festive feel behind the melody of "Firehouse moves forward into Fontaine's tenor sax solo, full of rhythmic syncopations and assertive melodic statements. Conguero Walter Valencia extensively explores the 6/8 rhythm on "La Perla Del Caribe, until flautist Danilo Lozano introduces a contemplative improvisation. Contreras display an affinity for modern Cuban timba on "Fantasy Of Shell, both funky and clave driven. Aguilar responds enthusiastically, building a series of rhythmic ideas into his register's high end. Fontaine immediately seizes the energy, filling his biting tone with long lines full of quick notes. Contreras asserts a contagious musical enthusiasm, which translates to strong support from his sidemen.
Contreras brings the experience and musical dedication of a lifetime to his first release, building his experiences into a commanding presence. A Los Angeles influence runs through the production and arranging work, maintaining a solid sound and a funky edge. Contreras' extensive experience with Latin genres, and obvious dedication, brings an authentic edge and a serious tone to the musicianship. His appreciation for life and music contributes a positive energy throughout the CD. Contreras' current musical state exhibits a wise and experienced persona; a long time sideman clearly arriving as a bandleader who creates with the exuberance of a young musician discovering performance for the first time.
Track Listing: Firehouse; La Perla Del Caribe; Tu Y Yo; Inner Spirit; Fantasy of Shell; Its All Good; Serenity; C.J. Max; Pasadena Cha-Cha; Friends; Un Dia En España; Mi Pueblo; Memories of Sergio; Samba For You.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.