Man-Ti-Ya is the latest launch of percussionist Ray Mantilla's Space Station, featuring a full-size sounding septet. As usual, Mantilla recruits skilled musicians for his releases. On this occasion, highlights include veteran pianist "Eddie MartÃ-nez, who enhances this recording not only with his remarkable performance, but also through his arrangements; saxophonist Willie Williams, who distinguished himself with trombonist "Papo Vásquez; and flutist and woodwind player Enrique Fernández, who issued MelodÃ-a para congasone of the salient Latin jazz notes of the late 90s, with living legend Carlos "Patato Valdés as s special guest.
"Hop Scotch might very well be the deepest musical exploration in this recording. Fernández rearranges the Joe Chambers composition to include absorbing, swift, tight horn lines upon which excellently phrased and timed solos by Williams on soprano and MartÃ-nez on piano serve as a prelude to an exchange between Bill Elder's brushed drums and the leader's somewhat free congas. Its stress-free tempo belies its intensity and depth of expression.
The Gershwins' "The Man I Love is an expected gem of musicality, interpreted here as a jazzy bolero. Once again, Williams' reed work shines through with sensibility, a great and tasty sonic range, superb ideas and technique. MartÃ-nez brings the melodic feast to its rightful level, and Fernández's flute is a flowering caressing touch through and through.
The core of the date, however, has material analogous to Afro-Cuban fare from the rumba family, which readily lends itself for big band treatment. "Mantillon, "African Holiday, "Mother's Day, and "Eight Ball illustrate this point rather well. Mantilla's few recordings never disappoint. This one is not an exception. The lessons learned with figures such as Charles Mingus, Max Roach, Art Blakey, and Cedar Walton, among others, seem both obvious and quite satisfying.
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