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: Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest 2002

Javier AQ Ortiz By

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Quick and to the Point: European, Hispanic and American jazzers honor Carlos “Patato” Valdés.

Various Artists
Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest 2002
HNK Records

The historical weight of the 2002 edition of the Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest was shared among Italian bassist Giovanni Tommaso , American bassist Charlie Haden, and its percussive honoree. Unfortunately, the exchange program with Umbria Jazz – initiated by the Tommaso presentation – didn’t seem to work out as it was not followed up during this year’s event. Furthermore, Charlie Haden's performances, greatly appreciated by the audience, as well as that of the Berklee in Puerto Rico Professor and Student Bands, were not included on the festival’s recording. Carlos “Patato” Valdés , history’s most melodic conga player, was well honored nonetheless.

Michel Camilo opens this release with a characteristic trio performance of “Piece of Cake.” Anthony Jackson’s flowing funk is relaxed, yet nasty when called upon. The trio format allows the drummer space to employ his jazz hyper-dexterity to fill in, color and drive on his own; however Camilo’s prowess goes unabated into the somewhat surprising coda. A close listen to his solo will reveal fascinatingly familiar sources...

“Flamoco,” as interpreted by Acoustic Alchemy , is a funky tropical/Iberian/jazzy jam that carries over well beyond its brevity – brassy, sassy, curvaceous, punchy and delightful. Al Jarreau interprets “Tomorrow Today” with tribalistic vocal crescendos, building funk into a mamboed jam with overflowing scats – leading the band through it all. Midway through the heat increases, until the percussive coda.

Giovanni Hidalgo's sextet interpretation of Tito Puente’s “Picadillo” is greatly enhanced by Abel Pabón’s piano comping and ensemble support, the voice of the seldom heard trumpet player David “Piro” Rodríguez, and the bass playing of Eddie “Guagua” Rivera. Jamming and slammin’ is what this one is all about, although these players run out of steam by the end.

Ennio Morricone 's theme from The Sicilian Clan was reinterpreted by Tommaso on his Secondo Tempo release, which coincided with some presentations in the U.S. before his performance at the festival. While soloing, the leader arrives at incisive reharmonizations and extracts swing polychordalities from his ax. These are just some of several musical treats from a fine jazz ensemble that offers even finer renditions of Morricone’s dramatic melodicism.

Ángel “Papo” Vásquez* is of special interest because of his non-rickety maturing as a composer, arranger and performer – evident in “Snow Angels.” Thankfully, the trombonist is not featured in any stereotypically “hot” setting, but rather in a more expressive context. Willie William’s forcefully romantic, attractive tone and range of expression on the tenor sax stands out among notable players.

“Comelón” is a brief riffed-walked-jam with Enrique Fernández heating it up on the sax alongside John Walsh’s clean, clear and tasty trumpet and Oriente López swinging piano montuno. The festival’s honoree manages, in spite of his advanced age, to instill his characteristic imprint on the cut, although it’s clear his best days are long over. Unfortunately, Nicky Marrero’s sorely missed bongo playing is not compensated for on this cut.

The Miguel Zenón Quartet, which will release Ceremonial in January, 2004 on Marsalis Music, performed “El Cruce” – one of the most interesting compositions of the leader's cherry-busting release Looking Forward . It is quite interesting to hear how the tune is performed live during the festival: the quartet jams away with ease, a fat and pulsating ensemble sound with true musical virtue.

Finally, Dennis Mario y Kobana Negra's “Selva Ríe” closes the recording with a nasty percussive piano solo by Tito Valentín. The leader, who has painted much of the festival’s official art, composed this violin-led jam that heats up midway with saxophonist Edgar Abraham calling upon a well known Cuban comparsa phrase, building up to Ricardo Dávila’s farewell on the electric violin.

*The Puerto Rican daily El Nuevo Día expressed resentment about the Downbeat review of Carnival in San Juan, recorded by his Pirates and Troubadours group, because the magazine mislabeled the music as Cuban. Jazziz once planted Puerto Rican saxophonist David Sánchez on their cover with a Cuban flag. Had this happened to the feisty Vásquez rather than the more demure Sánchez, Publisher Michael Fagien would probably be modeling a broken nose at the 2004 IAJE in New York! That, however, would lower the trombonist to the same level of Stanley Crouch. Perish the thought!

Visit Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest on the web.

For comprehensive festival coverage, see our extended Special Feature .

Tracks: 1. Piece of Cake-Michel Camilo Trio 2. Flamoco Loco-Acoustic Alchemy 3. Tomorrow Today-Al Jarreau 4. Picadillo-Giovanni Hidalgo Sextet 5. Clan of Sicilians-Giovanni Tommaso Quintet 6. Snow Angels-Papo Vázquez Pirates & Troubadours 7. Comelón-Patato Valdés y Afrojazzia 8. El Cruce-Miguel Zenón Quartet 9. Selva Ríe-Dennis Mario y Kobana Negra

Personnel: Michel Camilo Trio: Michel Camilo-piano, Anthony Jackson-bass, Horacio “El Negro” Hernández-drums. Acoustic Alchemy: Greg Carmichael-Nylon string guitar, Miles Gilderdale-electric guitar, Frank Felix-bass, Tony White-keyboards, Greg Grainger-drums, Eddie M.-sax. Al Jarreau: Al Jarreau-vocals, Freddie Ravel-keyboards and Musical Director, Ross Bolton-guitar, Chris Walker-bass, Joe Turano-keyboards & sax, Jota Morelli-drums, Arno Lucas-percussion, Debbie Davis-backup vocal. Giovanni Hidalgo Sextet: Giovanni Hidalgo-Musical Director & percussion, Abel Pabón-piano, Eddie “Guagua” Rivera-bass, Carlos Rodríguez-percussion, Ricky Martínez-keyboards & accordion, David “Piro” Rodríguez-trumpet, Antonio “Toñito” Vázquez. Giovanni Tommaso Quintet: Giovanni Tommaso-Musical Director & bass, Danilo Rea-piano, Massimo Manzi-drums, Daniele Scannapieco-tenor sax, Luca Begonia-trombone. Papo Vázquez Pirates & Troubadours: Papo Vázquez-Musical Director & trombone, Willie Williams-tenor & soprano sax, Arturo O’Farrill-piano, Roberto Cepeda-percussion, Joe González-percussion, Víctor Jones-drums, John Benítez, bass. Patato Valdés y Afrojazzia: Carlos “Patato” Valdés-Musical Director & congas, Nicky Marrero-timbales, Oriente López-piano, Steve Berríos-drums, Cruz “Cucho” Martínez-bass, John Walsh-trumpet, Enrique Fernández-Musical Director & flute & sax. Miguel Zenón Quartet: Miguel Zenón-Musical Director & alto sax, Luis Perdomo-piano, Hans Glaswishnig-bass, Adam Cruz-drums. Dennis Mario y Kobana Negra: Dennis Mario-Musical Director, congas & minor percussion, Tito Valentín-piano, Antonio Renovales-keyboards, Irvin Cancel-bass, Pedro González-timbales, Ricardo Dávila-violin, Edgar Abraham-sax.


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