When passion turns into art the effect can be stunning. Saxophonist Mercedes Figueras proves this in her masterful blend of jazz including Latin music, African rhythms and a high-energy dollop of free jazz. What makes it all the more tantalizing is the way in which she and her band scope and enlarge the composition. Figureas plays with great control and direction, but she also breaks loose to turn a tune into a memorable experience.
"Rainbows For Ramon," an ode to her son, dances in on percussion before the saxophone undulates the catchy melody. This is song of exulting joy with Figueras letting the melody blossom and bloom. Nick Gianni's bass provides a thick bottom on which Karl Berger frolics on the vibraphone as he also explores the melody and adds an impressive ambit. The tune is an absolute winner with its Latin rhythm, exquisite arrangement and Figueras showing her masterful control through flowing ideas, fertile phrases and interjections of free jazz.
A steady stream of African rhythms greets "Balafon Madness: Africa Meets China" in gently shifting shapes and pulses. The melody is drawn out on the saxophone in a deep swell that has a Chinese air. Tony Larokko is soon in the company of Figueras whose intensity fires up the space in contrast to the softer, malleable tones of Larokko's soprano sax. With the band locking in, this is another showpiece of how The Black Butterflies transcend genre and form to electrify the atmosphere.
That Figueras can write a mesmerizing melody is put beyond any doubt on "The 3 Monkeys," a ballad that is illustrated by a lingering beauty that emotes every note. The mellow tone of the soprano raises the quotient as it plays over the piano, drums and percussion. The last two are used judiciously to abet this lyrical manifestation even as it rides into the meatier entwining of two horns and a slight edginess that takes it to another plateau.
Rainbows for Ramon is a splendid record from The Black Butterflies.
Track Listing: Intro to The 3 Monkeys; The 3 Monkeys; Together; Summertime; Rainbows For Ramon; Wind Chimes; Lumkili; Balafon Madness.
Personnel: Mercedes Figueras: saxophone; Tony Larokko: saxophone and percussion; Nick Gianni: bass; Levi Barcourt: piano; Bopa “King” Carre: percussion; Fred Berryhill: djembe, percussion; Kenny Wollesen: drums; Karl Berger: vibes, melodic.
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