, singer Gilberto Monroig is reinterpreted through jazz by pianist Luis MarÃ-n. Monroig was a chain-smoking bohemian adept at various popular repertoires, although mostly dedicated to romantic fare throughout his career. On his way of becoming one of the most important Puerto Rican singers ever, he was even Tito Puente's vocalist for a couple of years after the departure of legendary singer Vicentico Valdés.
This rather unknown...although audacious recording...includes MarÃ-n's live performance of "Sollozo during the Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest 1997, recorded shortly after Monroig's death in 1996. In it, MarÃ-n and saxophonist José Luis "Chegüito Encarnación interpret a duo rendition of the Tito HenrÃ-quez bolero taking on its heart-rending significance with quite an enriched élan without necessarily abandoning its melodic poignancy. Rather than solely embroidering the harmonic core with melodic turns, they issue truly melodic lines with occasional dissonance, interpretive looseness...with enticing hints at free jazz at the head. Both players feature superb instrumental technique, equally superior expressions, tone, touch, and ideas. Although operating in a comfort polyglotal zone that reveals as much bop, as it does pop, Latin romantic song, Classical and Afro Caribbean tales, they never come across as multiculti musical braggarts. This duo performance is a rare piece in the jazz canon.
There are some unexpected noirish lines from Humberto RamÃ-rez's muted trumpet in the title cut, which also features a rhythmic foundation based on a variation on the guaguancó, Spaniard fragrances, chords that seem extracted from La Borinqueña, and a free flowing hard-handed bongo playing underlying the rare chance to listen to Pedro Pérez on guitar bass.
"Estimado Gilberto is one of two MarÃ-n compositions in this disk. It reveals a sensible pianist engaged in the open with a tight small ensemble, with loads of poise, strength and some devilishness too. In "Máscara, things heat up and one must pay attention to the conga soloing therein. "¡Qué falta tú me haces! is molasses slow and Iván Maraver romance on guitar is bootilicious. Even Israel López "Cachao is referenced in "Ése soy yo, where the listener gets the atypical opportunity to listen to Pérez solo in the acoustic bass.
Monroig had a voice and delivery with much more personality, character, and emotive capabilities than actual vocal resources. He did not lack a singer's voice, but his popularity and lasting interest cannot be explained simply by his tone, phrasing, or range. Was MarÃ-n, however, successful in pouring such a Monroig mix in a Latin jazz mold? Unbeknownst to someone knowledgeable in the career of Monroig, the disk was played as background music during a recent dinner at my house. Within a few bars of the opening title cut, said person readily identified it as "a bolero that Gilberto Monroig used to sing so well... "Inconsolable is a Rafael Hernández composition that has been interpreted by many, yet this person readily identified it as being particularly touched by Monroig. Many questions were issued as dinner progressed and it became evident that MarÃ-n and company honored Monroig with a definitive jazz treatment. This is one of the most important Puerto Rican jazz productions ever recorded.
Contact: Visit Luis MarÃ-n on the web.
1. Inconsolable (Rafael Hern