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Latin Jazz Roundup: Mike Freeman ZonaVibe, Terceto Kali, Will Jarvis, Livio Almeida, & Sergio Pereira

Mark Sullivan By

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A wide variety of recent Latin jazz releases. Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, and flamenco influences are all represented.

Enter the album name hereMike Freeman ZonaVibe
Blue Tjade
VOF Recordings
2015

Vibraphonist Mike Freeman leads his ZonaVibe group through an exciting program of Latin jazz originals on his sixth album as leader. The title tune acknowledges the great Latin jazz vibraphonist Cal Tjader—but he is only one of the forebears referenced. "Dance of the Dead" was influenced by a Milt Jackson tune, while "Agua y Piedra" refers back to Bobby Hutcherson's music. Freeman's crack band includes New Yorkers bassist Ruben Rodriquez; Chembo Corniel on congas, bongos, and percussion; and Willie Martinez on drums and percussion. Chicagoan Jim Gailloreto's Jazz String Quintet is the tenor saxophone and flute soloist. Latin jazz doesn't get any better than this, and the leader makes a strong individual contribution to the mallet tradition.

Enter the album name hereTerceto Kali
Terceto Kali
Self Produced
2016

Jason McGuire "El Rubio" got interested in flamenco guitar in an unlikely place: Dallas, Texas. When Paco De Lucia gave a Dallas performance McGuire began to imagine his own flamenco/jazz fusion, which he eventually pursued in the San Francisco Bay area (de Lucia is acknowledged here with the homage "Tio Paco"). After years of acting as musical director for Caminos Flamenco and other dance companies he formed this trio with bassist Paul Martin Sounder and drummer Marlon Aldana; Terceto Kali is his second album as a leader. This is a supercharged approach to the flamenco tradition, McGuire's virtuosic guitar matched by his bandmates. Two selections refer more directly to traditional flamenco: "Zardoz" features vocalist José Cortés, as does "Kali" (which also includes backing vocals and palmas (handclaps)).

Enter the album name hereWill Jarvis
Con Gracias
Self Produced
2015

Toronto bassist/composer Will Jarvis' affection for Afro-Cuban music began in the 1990s when he first played with a Toronto salsa group. His debut recording Con Gracias is a collection of compositions written over a twenty-year period, many written in support of his Masters degree in 2011. The music mainly consists of traditional Afro-Cuban song forms—each identified in the liner notes—so the connection to the tradition is clear. Joining Jarvis' bass in the core band are Hilario Duran (piano), Bill McBirnie (flute), Kevin Turcotte (trumpet, flugelhorn), Luisito Orbegoso (congas, bongos, cajon, shekere, güiro, voice) and Rosendo Chendy León Arocha (timbales). An exciting band, with pianist Duran standing out as the secret weapon, both as soloist and in the rhythm section. Canadian jazz icon Don Thompson guests on vibes on one track, a contemporary cha- cha-chá inspired by a Pat Metheny melody with the apt title "Como Metheny."

Enter the album name hereLivio Almeida
Action & Reaction
Self Produced
2016

Brazilian saxophonist Livio Almeida is a regular member of pianist Arturo O'Farrill's sextet: O'Farrill returns the favor by producing Action & Reaction. Almeida takes center stage here, composing all of the tracks and joined by pianist Vitor Gonçalves, bassist Eduardo Belo, and drummer Zack O'Farrill (trumpeter Adam O'Farrill is featured on two selections). Brazilian music (and Latin jazz generally) is a prominent flavor in the program—most notably in the opener "Sambasus" with its samba feel—but this is a jazz album first, easily the one with the greatest "jazz" emphasis in this group of Latin jazz releases. One of the most memorable tracks is the ballad "Those (not so infant) Eyes," which refers to the classic Wayne Shorter tune "Infant Eyes" from Speak No Evil (Blue Note, 1966). Almeida brings great energy and a sense of adventure to this date, joined by a strong band.

Enter the album name hereSergio Pereira
Swingando
Self Produced
2016

Guitarist/vocalist Sergio Pereira grew up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, soaking up bossa nova before moving to New York in the 80s. This album of original songs reflects both places, recorded in New York City and Brazil. The band includes several leading Brazilian jazz players, including pianist Helio Alves, bassists Nilson Matta and Itaiguara Brandao, drummers Mauricio Zottarelli and Duduka Da Fonseca, and guitarist Marcus Teixeira. Alves is an especially striking soloist, and Teixeira stands out on the two more electric tracks he contributes to (the title tune and "Leblon"). The leader's acoustic guitar is the backbone of the rhythm section, as well as an effective solo voice. He's memorable on electric guitar on "Ela," the only track where he goes electric. A very enjoyable collection which stays firmly in a Brazilian groove.

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