If the music of Aguanko is any indication, Latin jazz is in good shape in Southeastern Michigan. Conguero/composer Alberto Nacif leads a crack band, most of them from the metro Detroit area. Their previous album, Latin Jazz Christmas in Havana (Self Produced, 2015), presented creative arrangements of a variety of holiday standards, a delightful standout in the usual parade of holiday releases. Here all but one of the compositions is by Nacif, plus one from group reed player Russ Miller.
Nacif has a broad timbral palette to work with: the band is a septet, with two percussionists (joined by bass and piano in the rhythm section) and three horns, covering saxophones, flute, trumpet, flugelhorn and trombone. The rhythms all refer to traditional Latin dance forms: mambo, danzon, cha-cha-cha and bolero. So the ties to tradition are clear, but so is the fresh energy the band brings to it.
Patrick Prouty's bass provides a sly introduction to "Senor Smoke," but the band swiftly settles into a mambo groove. A sinuous solo from trumpeter Anthony Stanco begins the cycle of solos, followed by Christopher Smith's trombone and Russell Miller's tenor saxophone. The title tune "Pattern Recognition" is a bright play on words, while the montuno "Re-Vision" gives the percussionists time in the spotlight (as well as another fine trumpet solo).
"Doctor's Orders" (a reference to the leader's day job as a physician) finally gives pianist Rick Roe some well-deserved solo space. "Los Ninos" is a gentle feature for the flute, as is "Mojo Mohito" (which also gives Roe a chance to show off his jazz chops). It is notable that saxophonist Russ Miller's composition "Corazon Suave" begins with the focus on trumpet; the composer chooses to solo on flute. Closer "Late Night Religion" dedicates itself to the gospel of groove. Latin jazz fans, say "amen!"
Señor Smoke; Pattern Recognition; Re-Vision; Doctor’s Orders; Los Niños; Metaphorically Speaking; Mojo Mohito; Noche Y Luna; Corazon Suave; Late Night Religion.
Alberto Nacif: composer, congas; Jose "Pepe" Espinosa: timbales, guiro, bongo; Patrick Prouty: bass; Rick Roe: piano; Russell Miller: saxophones, flute; Anthony Stanco: trumpet, flugelhorn; Christopher Smith: trombone.