Down on Boylston Street by the Fenway, Sophia's is Boston's best Latin dance club. On any given weekend night, the place is completely packed. If you don't have the look or the moves, get upstairs. (That's where I go.) But damn! The music is hot!
Pianist and bandleader Edú Tancredi has done his thing at Sophia's, and Ongoing Dreams does a fine job of illuminating his group in action. Tancredi originally hails from Uruguay, and his music retains the spirit of his homeland (eg. candombe), but there are so many styles mixed up on this record that it's often hard to single one out. Son, tango, cha-cha, joropo, montuno, mambo: you name it. Most of these tunes feature his extended nine-piece big bandthough Tancredi also performs in solo and trio contexts, and one piece is an oddly configured bass/bass/percussion trio. Whatever elements form the greater whole, this record is jazz all the way.
Latin big bands almost universally include big horns. That's part of an old tradition, realized here with five players. Tancredi's arrangements are quite tight: saxophones, trumpet, and trombone often joining in crisp rhythms, pulsing irregularly against the beat. (Trumpeter Russ Hill hits those high notes just as hard as Sandoval.) But during solos, the music opens up significantly. On the mambo "Loud Pictures," for example, alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon swings and bounces along over a piano/bass/drums foundation. When trombonist Jeff Galindo steps into the fray, he leads right off from Zenon's last phrase right into a bluesy solo. Then the whole band re-forms, exalting in the theme once more.
The restless "Jopo Ropo Ropo" hops back and forth from piano to horns, adding significantly more color to the pace and harmonies. It's a high point in terms of sheer density and energy. But lest we settle into the misconception that Tancredi is all about upbeat celebration, he takes two opportunities to pause and reflect. On "Levitating Soul," his dedication to Thelonious Monk, the pianist delicately sways over simple changes. Bassist Fernando Huergo hits a bunch of notes off the beat, keeping the pace a bit jaggedpartly because the pianist insists on regularly planting the rootbut on his solo he mostly rides the straight and narrow. The voicing of Tancredi's solo "Basilio Araujo" wanders here and there, but it maintains a reflective tone. Nothing too complicated.
Ongoing Dreams is at its finest when the whole group is jamming; Eduardo Tancredi is much more effective in a larger context than he is in relative isolation. But his band is something else. The quick-paced opening track, "La Mama Vieja," launches stage by stagebut by the time it gets up to full thrust, there's no point in keeping your ass on the chair.
La Mama Vieja; Jopo Ropo Ropo; Levitating Soul; Ongoing Dreams; Moon
Over 33; Loud Pictures; Basilio Araujo; Mazamorrera; Sofra; Mirame a los
Russ Hill, Rene Gonzalez: trumpet; Miguel Zenon, Nestor Toro, Luis
Rodriquez: alto sax; Dino Govoni, Gerry Bergonzi: tenor sax; Jeff Galindo,
Luis Leon: Trombone; Nestor Toro: baritone sax; Fernando Huergo,
Alvaro Benavides: bass; Antonio Sanchez, Pablo Bencid, Diego Pineda:
drums; Omar Ledezma, Diego Pineda, Reynaldo de Jesus: percussion;
Eduardo Tancredi: piano.