Will My Island change the course of jazz? As the Gershwin song goes, "Who Cares. We're having too much fun swaying along to dreamy orchestrations and anticipating what may happen next in this world trombonist Rafi Malkiel has conjured out of thin air and musical prowess to worry about such things.
His creation could be Cuba, a place of memory or some other port of call. But you can hear it in all its liveliness. The aural snapshots offered through Latin-inflected orchestrations of originals and standards can transport listeners to the island of their choice.
If there's surface gloss shimmering atop the sea surrounding this sleekly produced Island, there's depth too. A listener would swear there's a real moon out here, not a paper one. And if this all seems a bit like a Hollywood "location in the golden age of film, well, those guys knew how to invoke romantic island settings and like here, no mosquitoes or sunburn.
With a few exceptions, Malkiel dedicates each tune to the exploration of a different Latin rhythm and musical curves and intricacies abound. In the bolero of "Los Tres Juanes, by Bienvenido Julian Gutierrez, he delivers an embracing trombone sound that is warm, robust and authentic and the vocals by Abraham Rodriquez will blow you away too.
The transition into Eden Ahbez's "Nature Boy is so smooth it's instant seduction. Is that Anat Cohen on clarinet? (Got to be and no complaints.) This time on euphonium, the Jerusalem-born Malkiel sounds very agreeable. So does this group of nineteen players. "Stardust is faultlessly translated into Cuban Danzon style. An interpretation of Ellington's "Black and Tan Fantasy as a New Orleans funeral march features Howard Johnson on tuba.
At times, it can be hard to keep score of all the players and Latin (and other) influences. A tribute to Cachao isn't surprising in this context but JS Bach? No problem. Any feeling that the feast might be a little too rich can be easily rectified. Just lie on the sofa and pretend you're in a hammock swaying in an island breeze or dancing under a star-punctured sky.
Gozambique (Mozambique, Cuba); Black and Tan Fantasy (March, New Orleans); Danza Magica (Fandango, Colombia); Los Tres Juanes (Bolero, Cuba); Nature Boy (Porro-Cumbia, Colombia); Stardust (Danzon-Cha, Cuba); Coballende (Son, Cuba); Blue Bomba - includes
Rafi Malkiel: trombone (1, 2, 4-9, 13), euphonium, (3, 5, 10, 12), leader, arrangements; Abraham Rodriguez: lead vocal (4, 7), vocals (7, 13), hand percussion including clave, guiro, maracas (4, 6, 7, 13); Anthony Camillo: bongo, timbas, bells, chekere, maracas (1, 4, 6-9, 13); Andy Gonzalez: baby bass (1, 4, 7-9); Dave Hertzberg: upright bass (2, 3, 5, 6, 12, 13); Henry Cole, drum set (2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 12, 13); Jack Glottman: piano (1, 2, 4-9, 12, 13); Pablo Mayor: piano (3); Anat Cohen, clarinet (2, 3, 5-7, 10, 12, 13); Chris Karlic: tenor saxophone (2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 13); Itai Kriss: flute (1, 2, 4, 6-9, 13) vocals (7), guiro (6); Steve Gluzband: trumpet (2, 6, 8, 9, 13); Gili Sharett: bassoon (2, 6, 13); Howard Johnson: tuba (2); Chacho Schartz: trez: vocals, lyrics (13); Ronald Polo: tambora, snare drum (3, 5); Morris Canate: alegre, platilos (3, 5); Sergio Borrero, llamador, maraca (5); Ze Mauricio: pandero (11, 12).
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