Quick and to the Point: Old sages die like they play: hard... very hard...
Art Blakey bolstered his musical cause by endlessly refreshing his Jazz Messengers with youthful, eager, and determined virtuosi carefully embedded amongst old hands. Ray Barretto, whose early professional path shared saunters with Blakey, implements a similar strategy to ever-growing and maturing effect, even as Wayne Shorter's compositions dominate this kind memorial from one percussive master to another.
Arguably, this might be Barretto's best jazz yet. It lends fantastic performances in shoring up the arranging work d'art by pianist Luis Perdomo. He arranged the first half of the recording and all but one of the Shorter tunes included in the production. Just the treatment of the Shorter tunes on Homage to Art: Blakey and the Jazz Messengers
merits special attention and certain listening delight. The recording, however, does feature other authors, arrangers, moods and textures.
For instance, the terrific melodic and rhythmic resources of "Close Your Eyes" are reinterpreted conveying a Caravanesque atmosphere, organically rooted in the ever evolving Afro-Cuban guaguancó
, with quite a brisk mellow-yellow drive. Miguel Zenón employs idiosyncratic, edgy, liquid, and excellently toned lines curved in his idiomatic expressionsas prelude to equally superior performances by Barretto and Luis Perdomo.
On the other hand, a sonic languidity characterizes "Sleeping Dancer Sleep On." Hans Glawischnig's bass playing features an enviable depth of understanding that lays out extended, woody and sharp. Glawischnig also shows his burning side on "Noise in the Attic" and "Buh's Bossa." On the former, trumpeter John Bailey heats up the valving in his trumpet, followed by exquisite Zenón, as they do repeatedly throughout the album.
In the final analysis, this work stems from a rock-solid group of performers who, gathered around veteran vertebrae, elicit the best of their talent even when having sheer fun with a ditty such as "Frère Jacques." This is top-notch material, with top-notch arrangements, top-notch performances and... well, you already got the top-notch point.