All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

729

Caribbean Jazz Project featuring Dave Samuels: Mosaic

Victor Verney By

Sign in to view read count
Mosaic is the first studio album since 2003 by the Carribean Jazz Project, led by vibes/marimba specialist Dave Samuels. Drawing on a variety of Afro-Cuban, Venezuelan, Peruvian, Jamaican and other North American rhythms, this release features three different bands. On four tracks, Samuels leads a quintet with keyboardist Alain Mallet, bassist Boris Kozlov, drummer Dafnis Prieto and percussionist Roberto Quintero. Two other tracks feature violinist Christian Howes, and the remaining three selections find Samuels reunited with former CJP co-founders reedman Paquito D'Rivera and steel pan player Andy Narell.

Best known for his lengthy tenure with Spyro Gyra, Samuels' resume also lists stints with Gerry Mulligan and Frank Zappa. His mallet work, a key element in Spyro Gyra's sound, added a "tropical" feel and made the group's music more accessible in many ways.

Jazz critics singled him out for praise, suggesting that if he were liberated from Spyro Gyra's somewhat formulaic "smooth jazz" recipe, something more creative might be forthcoming. However, after leaving the group, his solo recordings tended to be disappointing commercial offerings that fell into the soothing and vacuous world of airplay jazz—easy-listening, predictable music with light funk rhythms that are upbeat but instantly forgettable.

Samuels has an original voice on vibes—not an easy thing to accomplish—and he leaves his stamp on any project with which he's involved. This certainly applies to the CJP, which is, for all practical purposes, the Dave Samuels Project. This album's subtitle ("featuring Dave Samuels") is an understatement: he not only led the session, he produced the recording. Always a prolific songwriter, he penned four of the tunes on Mosaic, and the overall sound evokes the best and worst of Spyro Gyra: the brilliant musicianship and the highly polished—over-refined to some ears—production.

Samuels seems aware of a general perception of his music as often more pleasant than challenging. Discussing his decision to record a live album (Here and Now, 2005), he noted that ..." in the studio is where you can get this kind of veneer/urethane coating ... that sometimes can disguise the intent and intensity of the music." Some critics viewed the CJP as a slightly threadworn outfit in need of new blood, and another Samuels comment suggests he knew it, too. "I realized that as the personnel started to change... things were re-invigorated," he said in a 2005 interview. "There was a rebirth of sorts...."

With Mosaic, however, Samuels and the CJP are back in the studio, and the urethane coating is all too evident. Indeed, the album's glossy sheen can make it difficult, for purists at least, to appreciate its good points. Certainly, there is no faulting the musicianship. Mallet, in particular, contributes strong solos, and Prieto adds an infusion of energy throughout. The arrangements are strong, notably a sophisticated reinterpretation of Miles Davis' "Nardis."

But for better or worse (depending on one's taste), all the rough edges are smoothed and buffed, and despite the band's name and its tropical ambience, listeners looking for some real heat will probably be a bit disappointed.


Track Listing: Nardis; St. Ogredol; Portraits of Cuba; Afro Green; Wazo Dayzeel; Slow Dance; Spinnaker; Mambo de Luna (Para Cachao); Dusk.

Personnel: Dave Samuels: vibraphone, marimba; Alain Mallet: piano, organ (1, 2, 4, 6-8); Boris Kozlov: acoustic bass (1,2,4,6-8); Dafnis Prieto: drums (1, 2, 4, 6-8); Roberto Quintero: percussion (1, 2, 4, 6-8); Christian Howes: violin (6, 7); Andy Narell: steel pans (3, 5, 9); Paquito D'Rivera: alto sax, clarinet (3, 5, 9); Alon Yavnai: piano (3, 5, 9); Oscar Stagnaro: electric bass (3, 5, 9); Mark Walker: drums (3, 5, 9); Pernell Saturnino: percussion (3, 5, 9).

Title: Mosaic | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Concord Picante

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Rediscovery
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Afro Bop Alliance

Afro Bop Alliance

Heads Up International
2008

buy
Mosaic

Mosaic

Concord Picante
2006

buy
Here and Now - Live in Concert

Here and Now - Live...

Concord Picante
2005

buy
The Gathering

The Gathering

Concord Music Group
2002

buy
 

Paraiso

Concord Music Group
2001

buy
 

New Horizons

Concord Music Group
2000

buy

Related Articles

Read Dirt...And More Dirt CD/LP/Track Review
Dirt...And More Dirt
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 26, 2018
Read Locked & Loaded CD/LP/Track Review
Locked & Loaded
by John Kelman
Published: May 26, 2018
Read Long Story Short CD/LP/Track Review
Long Story Short
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 26, 2018
Read Awase CD/LP/Track Review
Awase
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: May 26, 2018
Read Invisible Touch At Taktlos Zurich CD/LP/Track Review
Invisible Touch At Taktlos Zurich
by John Sharpe
Published: May 26, 2018
Read My Singing Fingers CD/LP/Track Review
My Singing Fingers
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 25, 2018
Read "Lucus" CD/LP/Track Review Lucus
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: January 22, 2018
Read "Eternal Life" CD/LP/Track Review Eternal Life
by Jerome Wilson
Published: December 14, 2017
Read "I Try To Remember Where I Come From" CD/LP/Track Review I Try To Remember Where I Come From
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 17, 2017
Read "Evergreen" CD/LP/Track Review Evergreen
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 5, 2017
Read "Meditation / Resurrection" CD/LP/Track Review Meditation / Resurrection
by Mark Corroto
Published: June 8, 2017
Read "For Gyumri" CD/LP/Track Review For Gyumri
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: February 19, 2018