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About 35 years ago America was invaded by the bossa nova craze, and suddenly every jazz musician recorded at least one bossa nova album to capitalize on its popularity. Some were exceptional and some were awful; perhaps the best part was that guitarists and conga players suddenly had plenty of gigs. Although the bossa nova fetish has come and gone, Latin music continues to rear its head in jazz from time to time as performers continue to experiment with mixing music from both sides of the ocean.
Latin pianist Adrian Iaies has created a marvel of an album entitled Las Tardecitas de Minton’s in which he injects traditional piano trio stylings with tango music. Iaies is quite a talent; each song drips with a depth of emotion and sentimentality many performers neglect in favor of chops. Iaies isn’t afraid to hold notes; his limpid and sensuous playing is reminiscient of the finest moments of Bill Evans and Vince Guaraldi. Quite the composer as well as arranger, each song has the effect of sounding like something pleasant you’ve heard before, but can’t quite seem to identify. Since most of these songs are traditional tangos or Iaies originals, most will be new to listeners.
However, what really sets this album apart from the pack is that half the songs include Gabriel Rivano on the bandoleon. The bandoleon, apparently some sort of accordion, lends a touch of ethnicity to the proceedings and gives one the feel of listening to the band in some European coffee bar. Monk’s “Round Midnight” is given the tango treatment here, as well as “You, the Night, and the Music”; both feature the bandoleon backed by rich, shimmering piano chords. Although Iaies isn’t afraid to play without percussion, congas and other traditional Spanish instruments propel quite a few songs.
You could ring the globe with jazz piano CDs, but it takes a truly unique vision to create an album that stands out. The fact that Iaies is able to sustain interest through two CDs is not only a testament to his beautiful playing, but also to how well thought out his conception is. Iaies has created a truly remarkable album that won’t stray to far from your CD player. Quite simply, this is one of the best records of the year. Sometimes to find original interpretations of America’s classical music you have to go overseas.
Adrian Iaies, piano, with various artists.
Track Listing, CD 1: Chiquillin de Bachin, El Patron de la Vereda, Vida Mia, Amores de Estudiante, You and the Night and the Music, Round Midnight, Sur, De tal Palo, tal Astilla, Adios Muchachos. Track Listing, CD 2: Vals de la 81th and Columbus, Cafetin de Buenos Aires, Naranjo en Flor, Las Tardecitas de Minton
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.