A world-class guitarist by anyone’s definition, California-born Russ Spiegel is also a composer, arranger, big band leader, mixing engineer, educator and much more, including a world traveler. Though not entirely, much of the music in Caribbean Blue
is a tip of the hat to some of his destinations and the cultures he’s experienced, and homage to many of the genres of music he loves, and, perhaps most importantly, a reminder of just how small the world really is. Throughout his distinguished career, the now Miami-based Spiegel has had the opportunity to have traveled to, perform in, and explore as far flung as Australia, New Zealand, India, Israel, Turkey, Argentina, all around Europe and of course, throughout the Western Hemisphere.
On this musical journey evidenced here, Spiegel travels with an all-star cast of players starting with multi-Grammy Award winning trumpeter extraordinaire Brian Lynch
and Grammy-nominated saxophonist Tim Armacost
, one of the most vibrant voices on the New York jazz scene, with the outstanding jazz trombonist Javier Nero rounding out the horn section. Added to this eclectic mix is New York-based German jazz harmonica virtuoso Hendrik Meurkens
, a major proponent of the Brazilian genre. Also, on tap is one of the most talented keyboardists on the planet, Jim Gasior
providing harmonic support for the group on the organ with an infusion of muscle and grace along with Miami-based and in-demand drummer Lucas Apostoleris
providing the rocket-fuel for this ensemble. Vocalist Ben Beal
completes this illustrious lineup adding his luscious talents to Spiegel’s piece, “Inquietude.”
The music begins with the Blue Note-inspired “The Underdown Groove,” a beguiling composition inspired by Spiegel’s travels to Australia. “E. 22nd St.” was penned during when the leader was living deep in Brooklyn with its driving samba rhythm evidencing the disquiet of harsh times. The somber and wistful title track “Caribbean Blue” explores the melancholy of a Caribbean evening while “Island Song” draws inspiration from Miami’s close connection to the Caribbean Islands and delving deep into their rhythms yet providing the freedom for the three horn players to explore the music each in their own unique way.
The swinging and superb “Slippery Slope,” is based on Spiegel’s experience living in the Brooklyn, NY neighborhood of Park Slope with minor 9th chords slipping and sliding every which way. Offering a splendid Brazilian flair, “Inquietude,” is inspired by a fictional story of love and loss with lyrics penned by Spiegel in both Portuguese and English. “Retribution Blues” delivers a straight-up Jimmy Smith
- styled 12/8 blues, while “The Streets of Milan” is a musical paean to the dangerous roads of this Italian city with a firm nod to musicians McCoy Tyner
and Miles Davis
. The LA-styled contemporary jazz “Smooth Move” offers a pleasant change of direction, easing out any rough edges with a pronounced tip of the hat to his home town. The album ends with the fittingly titled “Coda,” which revisits the title track and completes the journey.
Without a doubt, Caribbean Blue
is a consistently bright, varied and swinging session of music. It’s truly a gem of a recording and quite frankly, not at all surprising considering Spiegel’s talents and depth of experience. After hearing this recording, I am confident you will come to the same conclusion.
, All About Jazz and WDNA 88.9FM (Miami)