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Jeno Somlai: Let It Go

Dan McClenaghan By

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Jeno Somlai approaches the keyboard with a percussionist's sensibility—rhythm, rhythm, rhythm—here on his debut disc, Let It Go. That's not a surprise, given that the Milwaukee-based musician is primarily a drummer who took up the piano just four years ago. The disc opens with Stevie Wonder's "Golden Lady," sounding sort of like Art Blakey's arrangement for "A Night in Tunisia." The song churns along for eight minutes of hard-driving Latin grooves, lots of percussion and a percussive piano—Somlai's—behind tenor sax and trumpet. At one point, about six minutes into the tune, the group goes into a percussion-only mode, a rolling, rollicking, rumbing knockabout, reminding me of Hugh Masekela's touring band, when everybody pushes their primary instrument aside and gets into the beat.

It's an infectious sound, and the opener sets the tone, though there are a couple of more mainstream tunes: "Libby," apparently the first song Somlai wrote, after getting into keyboards—and it has a wonderful, lovely melody; and the title tune, with the leader working some darker tones on the Fender Rhodes.

"Se Le Ve" drives hard, congas and clave bubbling along on a rolling boil behind the bright horn work; and on "Have You Met Miss Jones" (Rodgers and Hart), Somlai's drums and Robert Figueroa's congas present a smooth, cool, burbling flow of rhythm. Wayne Shorter's "One By One" features congas, timbales, bongos, drums, and Somlai—very focused, not over-reaching, bringing a perussive shine to the sound with his relatively simple rhythmic piano mode.

Visit Jeno Somlai on the web at www.jenosomlai.net .

Track Listing: Golden Lady, Se Le Ve, Let It Go, One By One, Libby, Go East, Have You Met Miss Jones, J.A.S., Dejalo Ir

Personnel: Jeno Somlai--piano, Fender Rhodes, drums, percussion; Jamie Breiwick--trumpet; Mike Plog--trumpet; Scott Van Domelan--tenor sax; Steve Einerson--piano; Doug Ebert--bass; Robert Figueroa--congoas, percussion; Dave Bayles--drums, percussion; Hector "Vivo' Rodriguez--timbalesUlisis Santiago--congas; Mark Davis--piano

Title: Let It Go | Year Released: 2004

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