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Various: Heineken Jazzfest 1992

Javier AQ Ortiz By

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Heineken Jazzfest 1992 , is the second recording issued by one of the most comprehensive Latin Jazz musical serial events in the world of jazz; highlighting, as all their yearly compact discs do, some of the performances. Michel Camilo , from the Dominican Republic, was that year’s honoree at the Heineken Jazzfest (HJ) following the festival’s habit of honoring living Hispanic jazz figures. The liner notes include a personal graceful message from Camilo.

The initial section of this recording is jam spirited, followed by a light Brazilian dash at the hands of steel pans only to get jam spirited again and after that, the musical ecosystem reveals further variety at the hand of local Puerto Rican musical talent delving into jazz, mostly dwelling on the jamming side though. This is the first time the cover of the Heineken Jazzfest recording points out its connection to the immensely valuable Heineken Jazz workshops.

“...And Sammy Walked In” is a Camilo trademark originally described in the liner notes of its initial Epic recorded release On Fire as “a result of pure serendipity.” It was latter reinterpreted by Camilo through a percussion and piano duo with Giovanni Hidalgo with whom he recorded Hands in Motion. This time we have the opportunity of listening to a live rendition of this composition with a beefier ensemble that most likely was The Puerto Rico Heineken Jazz Fest Big Band or members thereof. Unfortunately, only Camilo’s quintet credits are given under the liner notes for this particular performance and the members of The Heineken Jazz Fest Big Band at the time remained unidentified in the recording’s documentation. Who was the trombone player with such a precise rendering of jazz international aesthetics with a Puerto Rican accent? That sax... Do you like sax? If so, someone here challenged everyone there that night. Camilo made his fortified stand with unequaled fervor. Although the conguero’s name is not stated, his virtuosic playing identifies him as Hidalgo. The timbalero’s identity, who kept the fire going at the end, remains, for now, a mystery. Such technical details aside, everyone in this group cooks like an “Iron Chef” on this one. Camilo is rarely shown live and the possibility of not loving this cut remains difficult, if not impossible.

Humberto Ramírez’s muted trumpet swings into the second number for a few bars in order to continue jamming the listening experience with “Cohesion.” “Chegüito” Encarnación pushes his sax with jazzy impetus mixing equal parts brawn and brains. Ramírez pianist, Luis Marín, is not a better-known jazz pianist because of his commitment to the family’s business. His performance here, although not a definitive one in his career, shows early glints of what was to come. Drummer Albert Julián had a chance to stretch and mold the tune’s flow with his solo before the final jam trek.

By the time we reach Andy Narell’s “Little Secrets,” the senses are ready for some relaxation, albeit refreshingly so. The leisurely initial pace slowly heats off Narell’s playing while passing into a more Latinized feel, although the tune is a musical Creole form that makes use of several sources, and expressions with a quasi-minimalist axis.

Eric Figueroa’s “Chromatic Jam” is a jam. Scant recordings, however, document Hidalgo Sr. and Jr. playing together, although the rest of the ensemble plays with equal fire and celebratory spirit as they did.

Ángel “Cucco” Peña presented a rather interesting ensemble with six trumpet players, two guitars and percussion section. “Caliente” means hot and ‘nuff said about this truthful title. Perhaps one should add that the arrangement lends a Big Band feel to the horn section with its own majestic sense of drama and pleasure.

“Combate Blues” is yet another scorcher sculpted out of an unidentified violin player, perhaps Ángel Olmos or electronic means, and the electronic grounding of two keyboardists. Guitarist Cheby Rodríguez, who was quite active during different sessions during this festival, keeps the edge finely tuned and pushes it quite well.

Pianist and arranger Amuni Nacer is the daughter of Raúl Nacer. He initiated his radio career at 11 and became widely known as a soap opera director, artistic figure and scholar in the fields of communication, radio, theatre, music and television through most of the 20th Century and on to the 21st. She wrote “Inner Faces,” which is the most extensive tune in this recording. Therein her high caliber work on the piano is featured through an arrangement with heated touches of contemporary jazz. Rodríguez guitar shines again with Nacer, with Héctor Matos solo drumming adding great feel and color as well as the pertinent contributions of José “Furito” Ríos in sax and flute.

“En mis sueños” closes this recording. The vocal work of Josy Latorre , deeply rooted in the popular romantic traditions of Latin America rather than jazz, is the medium for this interpretation of a Sylvia Rexach composition.

Notes: Unfortunately, McCoy Tyner’s and Charlie Sepúlveda’s presentations at this festival do not appear in the recording. The cover artwork, another of the few not done by Dennis Mario, is unsigned and was most likely prepared by Young & Rubicam, P.R. The cover art for this album can be seen at the Merchandise section of the Heineken Jazzfest website.


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