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T.K. Blue: Latin Bird

C. Michael Bailey By

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New York City native TK (Talib Kibwe) Blue has seven previously released CDs to his leadership credit. His eighth, Latin Bird, bears promise as his most integrated and well-conceived. Blue interprets nine pieces composed by or closely associated with Charlie Parker's Latin muse. "Chi Chi" and "Si Si" were givens, the former enjoying both Blue's alto saxophone and flute playing over Parker's circuitous lines. Steve Turré demonstrates, on "Chi Chi," what a raving master of the creamiest trombone tone he is. "Si Si" is a Latin blues, an amalgam in which Parker liked to compose. Blue and pianist Theo Hill offer solos well-endowed with lyric allusions from the whole of bebop, while Roland Guerrero's precise percussion authentically infuses and informs the performances.

Blue throws in a couple of Parker-related tunes not typically thought of in the Latin vein. "'Round Midnight," one of Blue's favorite ballads, is present and performed straight, for the most part. Blue's spontaneous introduction melts into the familiar melody, joined by bassist Essiet Essiet in an extended duet improvised freely—not Latin, perhaps, but superb nevertheless. "Donna Lee" is played with something less than the fury of Parker, floating on a sea of Guerrero's samba percussion; a successful translation, with zero loss of musicianship.

The percussion-heavy "Barbados" comes off light as a feather, Parker's clever and complex lines rolling effortlessly from Blue's horn. "Steeplechase" struts with a Latin infusion of Thelonious Monk, angular and craggy. The original "Moods of Parker" is a straight and earthy blues, an idiom in which Blue is most comfortable. "He Flew Away Too Soon" is a lonesome solo alto ballad, developed patiently by Blue, and a perfect foil to the perky closing blues, "Buzzy."

Blue is well-equipped for such a recital, making Latin Bird a most exciting and satisfying disc.

Track Listing: Chi Chi; Si Si; Visa; Blue Bird; Round Midnight; Barbados; Steeplechase; Moods of Parker; Donna Lee; He Flew Away Too Soon; Buzzy.

Personnel: T.K. Blue: alto saxophone, flute; Willie Martinez: drums; Roland Guerrero: congas, percussion; Essiet Okon Essiet: acoustic and electric bass; Theo Hill: piano; Steve Turre: trombone and shells (1, 2, 4); Lewis Nash: drums (5, 8).

Title: Latin Bird | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Motéma Music

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