Mike Arroyo: Performing Live

Jim Santella By

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Mike Arroyo
Performing Live
Self Published

This event, a live performance filmed at The University Interamerican of Puerto Rico and billed as a "Christian Jazz Night" concert, begins with an extended drum solo by Leobadis Gonzalez and then goes "Straight to Heaven, as guitarist Mike Arroyo's ensemble provides a smooth jazz offering that sets the night at ease. Relaxed and in a mellow groove, the leader's interpretations integrate Latin jazz with smooth jazz textures. Repetitious melodies merge horns, keyboards and Latin percussion in a call to worship welcoming the congregation into a pleasant room filled with the joy of happy musical and religious themes.

Solo voices include Arroyo's guitar as well as piano, saxophone and congas. While the stage is filled with instruments, there's no overload of sounds. The leader's love for a lyrical melody shines through pure and simple. Improvisation finds openings in each selection, but the concert's focus remains fixed on melody.

Arroyo's soft touch brings each melody to life with a gentle caress. Additionally, synth strings and the lyrical offerings of other soloists surround him with lush sounds. It's clear from the video that he loves what he's doing. The visual aspect of his performance, moreover, affords viewpoints from many angles. At times, the editing creates a split-screen effect, placing one image above the other, so that we can watch two artists performing together.

Tenor saxophonist Roberto Jimenez provides a lovely solo theme on "Perfect Mood, offering a melodic statement that registers an effect of sincere devotion. Similarly, pianist Angel David Mattos has several outstanding solo spots to complement the leader's velvety guitar. As electric bassist John Benitez takes a solo in unison with wordless vocalized sounds an octave up, the sounds of the bass become a correlative to the depth of the band's feeling.

The instrumental mix, solo offerings, and accompaniment fall into place naturally, and the music is sufficiently interesting in itself to hold the viewer's attention or to provide a relaxed, meditative mood for contemplation and worship. The over/under video images, however, tend to distract the viewer when brought into play too often. The realism of this concert has been captured well enough to hold the viewer's attention without excessive video editing.

Between numbers, Arroyo speaks to the congregation in Spanish about devotion and spiritual love. Even apart from the verbal text, a viewer who doesn't speak Spanish will be able to tell by the music that Arroyo and his band address deeply-felt feelings about religious faith, feelings no less universal than the power of music itself.

Tracks: Straight to Heaven; Bridge Over Troubled Water; How Great Thou Art; Perfect Mood; Worship Tune; The Nearness of You / La Borinqueña / Verde Luz; Falling in Love with Love; What a Friend We Have in Jesus; Testimony; Tribute; Florecitas; Soñando con Puerto Rico.

Personnel: Mike Arroyo: guitar; Angel David Mattos, Pedro Bermudez: piano; Angel Perez: keyboard; John Benitez, electric bass; Manny Arroyo: double bass; Leobadis Gonzalez, Luis Sanchez: drums; Robert Cancel: congas; Roberto Jimenez: tenor saxophone; Jose Heredia, Jr.: alto saxophone; Millie Laracuent: vocal.

Program Notes: Approximate running time 80 minutes.

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