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Jimmy Haslip: Red Heat

Jim Worsley By

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Jimmy Haslip: Red Heat
Music is our universal language. A message can be conveyed spiritually to a multitude of cultures and processed at innumerable human levels. Red Heat (originally released in 2000) is a rare and priceless gem that engages the masses with purely relatable emotions and feelings. It targets and strikes your core with purposeful marksmanship.

This moving tribute to James Haslip (Jimmy Haslip's father) begins with the high-octane blast of "Los Feliz." The powerful undertow of the Caribbean flows through a formidable percussion section with an unwavering force. Haslip's pent up and brimming intensity floods against the tide. His passion hits like a tidal wave. An equally unrestrained horn section, featuring Chuck Findley on trumpet, leads to Steve Tavaglione's rip current on tenor sax. Haslip responds with what could only come from the heart. Luis Conte and Mike Shapiro ride the relentless percussion with delightful madness. Joe Vannelli toes his board into the percussive rush leading to a resolute revisit from Tavaglione. The breathtaking Haslip/Vannelli co-write is a benchmark of their intuitive collaborative connection.

The stunning dynamics of "Los Feliz" beg the question, where do they go from there!? The answer is that they move up the street to "Calle del Sol," where they are basking in the sunshine of a new day. A mid-tempo dance beat is aligned with a uniquely melodic piece that has Haslip briskly leading the ensemble through a song that evokes happy times and fond memories. Russell Ferrante co-wrote "Calle Del Sol" with Haslip. Flautist Justo Almario adds spicy character, as does Vannelli with augmenting piano runs.

"The Heat" is the second Haslip/Vannelli offering. The mood is fortified by the guitar-like riffs of Haslip's seven-string bass and a mighty jolt from the horn section that kicks up some serious dust. The ongoing current of percussion continues to pulsate. This very sweet melody is encapsulated in a glistening shower of instrumentation.

Vannelli sumptuously rides a groove of optimism that is cradled by Haslip's smoldering bass lines in "The Red Sun." This Haslip/Vannelli creation eases down in the twilight and creates a sacred space for Haslip to tell a story of love and respect to his father. Haslip's vibe of thankfulness has a symphonic embracement that is nurtured by Almario and by Judd Miller on EVI (electric valve instrument).

The songwriting duo is on fire again in "Laguna." Haslip is the centerpiece of this stoic and impassioned storytelling framework. With light backing, this is all Haslip. A full heart opens in sharing his sincere love of family. Strictly from an instrumental gauge, "Laguna" is an accomplishment of some renown. Combined with the sincerity of the storyline, this is an epic that measurably represents the core of the project.

Casey Scheuerell, perhaps best known as a drummer with Jean-Luc Ponty, composed the next song with Haslip and Vannelli. Together they unleash "Vaya" and the spirit of good times come to life. A vocal cry out signaled an invitation to a party that imbibes into a dreamland. The guest list is long, including an eight-piece percussion army, as well as two vocalists. Conga and timbale driven, along with djembe, shakers, claps, bongos, shekere, cajon, and more, "Vaya" also has Scheuerell in the pocket on a traditional drum kit. Haslip's seven-string enlightens this sonnet of Puerto Rican authenticity replete with a Caribbean chorus and a nifty melodic cadence. Almario, Findley, and Miller join Haslip and Vannelli for the festivities with modern twists as they pay homage to Puerto Rican tradition.

Guitarist Steve Khan comes on board to write with Haslip and Ferrante. "Novelas"' smoldering salsa verve is at counterpoint with the ease of a groove that has the ensemble engaging in alternate run-throughs. It conjures a leisurely, yet active, summer day. A well-connected and intently charged piece of music has Ferrante on keys, Otmarro Ruiz on acoustic piano, as well as Vannelli on keyboards. The line-up is also infused with Mark Craney on hi-hats and cymbals joining Conte on percussion. Haslip, again, pulls together a tight rhythm section fueled by Khan's concept.

Haslip has long been a huge fan of the songwriting prowess of Vince Mendoza. It stands to reason that he was indeed very welcoming of a Mendoza composition to be a part of his tribute to his father. "She Never Has a Window" sees Vannelli open gently on the piano, to then being seamlessly joined by the ensemble picking up the tempo. Haslip punctuates throughout and leads through an array of subtle changes of direction. On a song written to their strengths, Vannelli and Haslip make the most of the opportunity. Instrumentally, this is likely Vannelli's most shining moment as he interfaces with Conte's vivid percussion.

The team of Haslip/Vannelli light a fire, "Fuego," and launch a rocket into the sky. The words high energy and powerful do not really do justice to this flaming juggernaut. Haslip's big and bold range reached baritone levels with his hot licks popping off a sonic rhythm section. Heavy thunder is countered with sunshine tones as the burn from the start of this record has raged into an inferno. The horns come in hot and sticky to bring this barn burner to a close. This is "Fuego." It is also very much Red Heat.

Haslip bids farewell with softness in the heart-tugging composition "El Morro." Both white-hot and fiery red-hot, this mesmerizing song radiates and encompasses all the passion and heat put into this record. Tavaglione's soprano sax and Findley's flugelhorn forge a cinematic enhancement. The final story is spoken with emotion in, not surprisingly, one final collaboration by Haslip/Vannelli. Again, Haslip was wistfully sincere as the blood of his engagingly focused ensemble and the pride and honor of family coursed through his veins.

Haslip went deeply inside for his father. To their credit, his stellar cast of musicians each respectively summoned their own inner peace and brought that to every piece. The effort thus resulting in a vibrant, full of life, Latin jazz fusion masterpiece. Although he didn't live to see the complete package of artwork, liner notes, etc., it is heartwarming to note that the music and its beloved sincerity did reach the ears and heart of James Haslip prior to his passing. This is a permanent record of one man's love, devotion, and respect for his father.

Track Listing

Los Feliz; Calle del Sol; The Heat; The Red Sun; Laguna; Vaya; Novelas; She Never Has A Window; Fuego; El Morro.

Personnel

Jimmy Haslip: bass, electric.

Jimmy Haslip: electric and acoustic bass guitar, synth bass, keyboards, programming, background vocals; Joe Vannelli:: keyboards, synth bass, programming; Otmaro Ruiz: piano; Russell Ferrante: keyboards; Vince Mendoza: keyboards; Steve Tavaglione: saxophones; Chuck Findley: trumpet, trombone; Justo Almario: percussion; Judd Miller: percussion; Luis Conte: percussion; Mike Shapiro: percussion; Mark Craney: percussion; Casey Scheuerell: percussion; Ernesto Diaz: percussion; Paul Gonzalas: percussion; Bertrand Lehman: percussion; Ross Vannelli: background vocals; Gino Vannelli: background vocals.

Album information

Title: Red Heat | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Blue Canoe Records

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