Like the great Latin jazz pianists Eddie Palmieri and Hilton Ruiz, Hector Martignon is one hot player (un pianist caliente). The musician, composer, and band leader has performed with Celia Cruz and Ray Barretto, and has created a body of work which includes orchestral music, jingles, and other formats. On Refugee, his third release as a leader, he assembles an impressive and huge list of top musicians, with new material recorded with four groups on four different sessions. The tunes were composed specifically for each group, the idea incubated from his 1998 band Foreign Affair.
Guitarist Mark Whitfield, bassist Richard Bona, drummer Dafnis Prieto and percussionist Roberto Quintero are just a few of the talented names found on the recording. Martignon's appreciation of each musician is channeled into sterling compositions, making good use of their skills and resulting in more than just an entertaining Latin jazz recording.
Musical borders are touched on the Afro-Cuban percussion rhythms of "Refugee and "Observatory, which also features Martignon's vocals---dedicated to his wife and inspired by the beauty of Tahiti. To go along with varied musical terrains, Martignon seems comfortable in a variety of settings be they ballads, swingers, or delivering some killer ragtime stride on "Beauty Sleep, where he trades ivory keys with Kenny Barron's electric piano and Mark Whitfield's hollow-body guitar.
This recording boasts memorable performances from many musicians and in particular the bass players. Richard Bona's fretless work on the title, John Benitez's reverberating strings on "99 MacDougal and Matt Garrison's fascinating solo on "You Won't Forget Me are just a few of the highlights. Though this is not your classic clave-driven Latin recording, the rhythm and percussionist sections are superb. Good music and some collective inspiration all make this a noteworthy release.
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