It seems that every year I get an album that is so impressive, I claim it is the likely to be the best new jazz release of the year. Usually that doesn't happen until August or September. It's only February, and I've already heard two. They may not hold up over the next ten months, but they've set a high standard that will be tough to beat.
The first of these is the Caribbean Jazz Project's Here and Now. Led by Dave Samuels, a specialist on marimba and vibes, this group creates some of the most exciting new sounds on the jazz spectrum. The two-disc set opens with a sizzling performance of "Rendezvous,"? which first appeared on Samuels' solo album Ten Degrees North. Diego Urcola's blistering trumpet leads the way on this high-temp cookout. The group then simmers a Latin flavor into the Oliver Nelson classic "Stolen Moments,"? seasoned by percussionist Roberto Quintero and Samuels' brilliant vibes. These two tracks sum up the strength of this album, recorded in concert at Pittsburgh's famed Manchester Craftsman's Guild. Other classics include extended plays of John Coltrane's "Naima"? and Duke Ellington's "Caravan."?
"Studio recordings are usually a musical snapshot of a band in an artificial setting,"? said Samuels, a former member of Spyro Gyra who still occasionally appears as a guest on the group's albums. "A live recording of a concert is a much more accurate picture of how a group sounds. It also gives the listener a better view of the process of how a group interacts, and interaction is the nucleus of what takes place with a group of improvising musicians."?
Samuels founded the group in 1993 in partnership with Cuban woodwind artst Paquito D'Rivera and steel drum master Andy Narell. After many personnel changes, Here and Now is the group's first live album.
After just one pass, listeners are certain to feel it was long overdue.
Disc 1: Rendezvous, Stolen Moments, Turnabout, Arthur
Dave Samuels, vibes and marimba; Diego Urcola, trumpet and flugelhorn; Dario Eskenazi, piano; Oscar Stagnaro, bass; Mark Walker, drums; Roberto Quintero, congas and percussion