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T.K. Blue: Latin Bird

Dan Bilawsky By

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It would seem that the music of Bird has been born anew in 2011. Joe Lovano took to the skies with his expansive take on the music of Charlie Parker with Bird Songs (Blue Note, 2011), and now alto saxophonist T.K. Blue spreads his wings with Latin Bird. Both men take Parker's music in different directions, yet they seem to share a guiding philosophy that reverence for a subject matter needn't result in stale retreads of their work. Artists who bow at the altar of Parker, yet refuse to build on the constructs and language he created, often make themselves irrelevant, and neither of the aforementioned reed men falls into that category.

On Latin Bird, Blue builds a variety of rhythmic structures to house Parker's pieces. He dabbles in calypso rhythms ("Barbados"), deals in Afro-Cuban grooves ("Si Si" and "Buzzy"), and struts along over a snare drum-driven second-line feel ("Visa"), but his personal sound helps to tie it all together.

In other places, Blue comfortably bridges the gap between two dissimilar rhythmic directions. "Donna Lee" is presented as a bubbly Brazilian concoction, but Blue's unaccompanied saxophone statements allow for the band to remove itself from the equation, recharge and, subsequently, rebrand the work as a waltz. After the soloists have had their say, those who prefer the Brazilian beat are given one more opportunity to revel in the rumble when drummer Willie Martinez uses his drum solo to bring the piece back to its original feel. A less drastic example of shifting rhythmic terrain comes with "Blue Bird," which continually moves between a dreamy, wind chime-coated section of music and a bluesy atmosphere.

When Blue branches out with his own material, he still manages to stick to the theme at hand. "He Flew Away Too Soon" is a solo work written to honor the late Benny Powell—Blue's trombone-playing band mate from pianist Randy Weston's outfit—but it can also play out as a tribute to Parker. Likewise, "Moods Of Parker" uses Bird's own "Parker's Mood" as a jumping off point, and serves as a touching tribute to one of the true geniuses of jazz.

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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