If you are at all into Latin music in all of its rhythmic diversity, and furthermore like the fusion of that music with jazz, then you'll find saxophonist/composer Paul Carlon's Other Tongues to be a kick-ass album that will keep you moving from beginning to end while engaging the mind.
To someone who values the endless surprises that jazz can bring, Latin rhythms, which, after all are names for patterns, can begin to grate from the sheer repetition of those patterns. However, there is "low" and "high" Latin music, the former of which resides on body side of the mind/body dialectic, while the latter applies many subtle variations to the basic pattern that might get missed when listening with ear buds and a Walkman.
For a fusion of Latin music and jazz to be successful, the musicians must be masters of the idiom on one side while having enough of the goods on the other. Two such successful Latin jazz releases are Ricardo Gallo's Los Cerros Testigos and Benjamin Lapidus with Sondio Isleno on Vive Jazz.
Other Tongues works extremely well from the other direction. Carlon and his band mates have internalized the essence of the Latin esthetic and do not just play at it, but truly get inside it. Their enthusiasm is infectious and easily heard on the record.
The arrangements are key to the music's success and they keep things from becoming a mere blowing session. Regardless of whether a particular track's content is more Latin than jazz or vice versa, the arrangement gives it a structure that makes the entire band the instrument, rather than just a parade of soloists in front of a rhythm section. This feature would be a strong point for any album regardless of style.
Other Tongues has nice pacing as it moves through different rhythms. My favorite tracks are "Smada," by Billy Strayhorn (arranged by Carlon), but especially "Portals." The latter is significantly darker than the rest of the tracks and much more abstract in that it is less insistently rhythmic.
Carlon, on this debut album, shows himself to be a fine composer and arranger with a band that shares his love of Latin music and the ability to create a genuine fusion with a jazz esthetic.
Lucid Dreaming; Rumbatapestry; Smada; Street Beat; A Certain Slant of Light; Boogie Down Broder; Extraordinary Rendition; The Spirit Calls; Portals; Clave.
Paul Carlon: tenor saxophone, flute, mbira; Anton Denner: alto saxophone, flute; Dave Smith: trumpet; Ryan Keberle: trombone; John Stenger: piano; Dave Ambrosio: bass; William "Beaver" Bausch: drums; Ileana Santamaria: vocals (2,3,8); Max Pollak: rumbatap (2,7); Buddy Terry: tenor saxophone (4).
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