Back in the 1960s, Marty Sheller did a sizable share of arranging for Mongo Santamaria. Marty was in the trumpet section of Santamaria's band and was on his all-important Latin-jazz rendition of Herbie Hancock's Watermelon Man in December 1962. Marty also had a hand in most of those cool albums Santamaria recorded featuring Latin versions of contemporary pop soul hits. Songs like the Fifth Dimension's Working on a Groovy Thing...
Clean, hip and oh so picante! For as long as I've known Marty, he has been about orchestras, scores and good taste. And he's still at it. Marty's latest album, Libre, features his arrangements for a special ensemble of fiery musicians: Chris Rogers and Joe Magnarelli (tp), Bobby Porcelli (as), Bob Franceschini (ts), Sam Burtis (tb), Oscar Hernandez (p), Ruben Rodriguez (b), Vince Cherico (d) and Steve Berrios (perc).
Libre, the opening title track is by Marty, as is Counter Punch and RSVP—all smart, driven songs. He also wrote Noraa, a beautiful ballad with an alto sax solo by Porcelli. Another Time, a mid-tempo ballad, is by Alan Broadbent and features a striking trumpet solo by Magnarelli and solos by Hernandez and Franceschini. Woody I, by Woody Shaw, is a fire-eater with a tender, assertive arrangement. In all cases, Marty's charts dig in and bring out the best of songs and the musicians without overburdening the ear. That's Marty's good taste at work. This is a gorgeous, engaging six-song album.
If you're unfamiliar with Marty Sheller, I'd also recommend Why Deny (2008) and Joe Magarelli's My Old Flame (2010), with orchestra and strings arranged by Marty.
JazzWax tracks: You'll find the Marty Sheller Ensemble's Librehere.