Latin Jazz Fantasy is the second event of its kind by pianist Bill O'Connell on Random Chance Records. O'Connell is no stranger to playing in Afro-Caribbean style; he played with Latin jazz greats like saxophonist Gato Barbieri and percussionist Mongo Santamaria. O'Connell's Latin Jazz Fantasy features ten original compositions by O'Connell that glisten with Latin rhythms and percussion in front of an orchestral backdrop.
The opening track "Barcelona" has an Afro-Cuban beat, but as the strings come in, the song begins to sound like something from the Creed Taylor catalogue from the early '70s. O'Connell interjects sweeps of impressionistic notes during his solos and flutist Dave Valentin plays the theme of "Barcelona" softly throughout the piece.
"Fast Eddie," O'Connell's ode to an eccentric great uncle who liked to play piano, grooves in 7/4 rhythm and then swings with straight-ahead 4/4 time, sounding a lot like classic Weather Report. Toward the end of the song, the rhythm section blows out all of their cobwebs with an aggressive and dynamic interlude that swings really hard.
"After the Dust Settled" is a tribute to the tragic events and aftermath of September 11. The theme has such a singing quality that the listener can almost hear the words "After the Dust Settled" in the notes. The somber piece, a duet by O'Connell and saxphonist Bob Malach, fits the melancholic mood of that horrific September day.
The title track, "Latin Jazz Fantasy," is a dramatic orchestra piece that is reminiscent of Chick Corea's Return To Forever, but with a well-arranged string section. O'Connell wrote the piece with modern harmonic compositional devices, combinding Latin rhythms with a lush orchestral background. The piece meanders back and forth with a solo by flutist Valentin and a horn section including trumpeter Randy Brecker.
Track Listing: Barcelona; Fast Eddie; After the Dust Settled; Latin Jazz Fantasy; Maybe Tomorrow; Pogo Sticks; Laurie; Wind It Up; 6 For Claude; El Yunque
Personnel: Bill O'Connell (piano, composer, arranger), Bob Malach (tenor saxophone except on "Maybe Tomorrow," "El Yunque," clarinet on "Barcelona"), Dave Valentin (flute on "Barcelona," "Latin Jazz Fantasy," "El Yunque"), Dave Fink (bass on "Barcelona," "Latin Jazz Fantasy," "Maybe Tomorrow," "El Yunque"),Lincoln Goines (acoustic bass on "Laurie," electric bass on "Fast Eddie," "Wind It Up"), Charles Fambrough (bass on "Pogo Sticks"), Stephanie Cummins (cello on "Laurie"), Kim Plainfield (drums, except on "Latin Jazz Fantasy, "Pogo Sticks"), Steve Berrios (drums on "Latin Jazz Fantasy," "Pogo Sticks," congas on "Latin Jazz Fantasy"), Myra Casales (percussion on "Wind It Up," "El Yunque"), Milton Cardona (congas and chekere on "Barcelona," congas on "El Yunque"), Horn Section on "Barcelona," "Latin Jazz Fantasy," Strings on "Barcelona," "Latin Jazz Fantasy, "El Yunque" Horn Section: Randy Brecker (trumpet), Boarry Donelian (trumpet, flugelhorn), Mike Migliore (alto saxophone), Bob Malach (tenor saxophone), Roger Rosenberg (baritone saxophone) Strings: Richard Sortomme (violin, concert master), Sara Schwartz (violin), Suzanne Ornstein (violin), Robin Bushmun (violin), Robert Chausow (violin), Barry Finclair (violin), Arthur Fiacco (cello), Stephanie Cummins (cello)