With The Nature of the Beat (Patois, 2008), trombone virtuoso Wayne Wallace established himself as the musician you'd most like to have living in the downstairs apartment. If you had to have musicians downstairs, that is.
The reasons Wallace and his extraordinary band mates would be welcome are essentially twofold. First, their repertoire is flawlessly funky and erudite, based on excellent rhythm and blues and Afro-Cuban elements. Second, they are all extraordinary jazz players, starting with Wallace himself, who plays an arsenal of trombones with alternating lyricism and incisiveness worthy of trumpeter Clifford Brown; pianist Murray Low and percussionist Michael Spiro are likewise standouts. Who wouldn't want to have Latinized versions of Earth, Wind & Fire and the Miles Davis Nonet downstairs?
Admirers of The Nature of the Beat will thus be intrigued by Infinity, which gives every sign of having emerged from the same sessions as the earlier record. And many of the strong points of the former record are back on Infinity. There are solid Afro-Cuban numbers including "Songo Colorado," featuring Orlando Torriente's fine vocals, and "TBA," enlivened by the interaction between the percussion and Wallace's (presumably overdubbed) trombone choir.
On the Latin jazz side, there is a strong transformation of Freddie Hubbard's "Mr. Clean," and a marvelous version of Eubie Blake's "Memories of You," resplendent with elegant solos from Low and Wallace. Guest Roger Glenn graces a lovely "Cha-Cha de Alegria" on both vibes and flute.
Infinity ultimately falls short of the standard set by its predecessor: two numbers featuring guest vocalist Jackie Ryan are little match for Torriente's wider role on the earlier record, and the set list is less inspired this time round. But at the same time, you wouldn't shut the window if this music was wafting upward from the flat downstairs; in fact, you might open the window a little wider.
Infinity; Songo Colorado; As Cores Da Menina; Love Walked In; Memories Of You; TBA; Close Your Eyes; Cha-Cha De Alegria; Straight Life/Mr. Clean.
Wayne Wallace: tenor and alto trombone, tuba, melodica, vocals; David Belove: bass; Murray Low: piano, keyboards; Michael Spiro: congas, bata, percussion; Paul van Wageningen: trap drums; Roger Glenn: flute, vibraphone; Jackie Ryan: vocals (4,7); Orlando Torriente: vocals(2); Karen Aczon, David Chaidez, Alexa Weber Morales, Jody Noble, Sakai, Ron Stallings, Sheryl Lynn Thomas: background vocals.
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