There is an abundance of salsa and soul (soulful salsa?) on It's My Turn, the sixth recording by conguero Carlo Lopez's Los Angeles-based Echo Park Project. Most of the sunny, light-hearted music was written and arranged by Joe Mannozzi (the one exception is bassist John Belzaguy's "Can't Complain"). "These tunes," Lopez says, "are for listeners and dancers alike." That must be true, as it is hard to keep the feet from moving and toes from tapping as one's ears are engaged.
While there are a number of admirable solos, especially from trumpeter Ron Francis Blake, saxophonist Frank Fontaine and pianist Jonathan Montes, it is the broad-shouldered rhythms that carry the day in a session whose compass is inflexibly pointed due south. Blake and Fontaine share the front line in a septet whose diligent and able rhythm section numbers Montes, Lopez, Belzaguy, Joey De Leon on timbales and Tomas Martin Lopez on bongos, guiro, shekere and barriles.
Fontaine (on tenor sax) is especially persuasive on the ambling "Felicity's Harvest" (presaging a quick shout-out to daddy by "Felicity" herself?) and shines again on the lively "Charanga in Q" and percussive closer, "Si! Si! C.L.!," while Blake has some of his best moments on "C.L.!" and the irrepressible "Guanica." Fontaine appends a nimble flute solo to "It's My Turn." Meanwhile, the rhythm section keeps stoking the furnace, making sure the indispensable flame never wavers.
It's My Turn should assuage any cravings of those to whom Latin music is akin to food for the soul. The Echo Park Project has prepared a wholesome and seductive table; all that remains is for the listener to sample the rich and tasty menu.
En Camino; Monktuneando; It’s My Turn; Guanica; Can’t Complain; Felicity’s Harvest;
Charanga in Q; Si, Si, C.L.I.