Palm Beach-based Sea Breeze Records has quietly crept up as one of the most prolific of contemporary boutique jazz labels. Sea Breeze not only exposes the talents of prodigious college groups and faculty combos, it captures many regional acts that haven't yet broken into the national consciousness. The LA-based collective Rhubumba (a made-up word) fits the bill perfectly. Blending straight-ahead with evident Latin sensibilities, this group shows with its self-titled album that it doesn't need star power (though veteran trumpeter Bobby Shew does make a few searing appearances) to make a powerful musical statement.
I am sorry to say that this disc sat on my shelf for quite a while before I opened it up. But when I did, I was pleasantly surprised by a well-seasoned band that plays almost as well as a group like Irakere did in from the '70s through the early '90s. Granted Rhubumba is not made up of Cuban superstars, but they do shine as a band and as individuals. Saxophonist and co-leader Jeff Benedict's sweet sound has a definite degree of individuality. One hears the inevitable influence of Paquito D'Rivera early on with his alto playing on "Man From Tanganyika" and "Song For Sandy."
Pianist and co-leader Paul De Castro, whose comping (especially on "Chico") puts you in a celebratory mood, also has excellent composing and arranging skill, as showcased on "Chinita Linda" and "Song For Sandy." One of the fresh surprises of this album is guitarist Dave Askren's lyrically flowing bop-flavored guitar lines, which hark back to Wes Montgomery and Grant Green. Bassist Rigoberto Lopez' timekeeping, coupled with the spirited support from percussionists Bob Fernandez on congas and Jimmy Branly on timbales, will make you dance.
Dig the rare Latin interpretations of the Frank Foster's standard "Shiny Stockings" and Gershwin's "Summertime," with an awe-inspiring solo from trombonist Jacques Voyemant. A salute to the Chucho Valdes-led Cuban supergroup, "Mambo Influenciado" is bookended by Askren's ornamented guitar. However, too often Rhubumba's feel is staid and under-stimulating. It's not mood music, but it lacks the vigor and intensity one has come to expect from non-vocal Latin jazz. Besides Benedict's often cliche and conservative approach, the saxophone-piano interplay towards the end of "Chick's Delight" loses the momentum carried over from De Castro's impassioned solo and ultimately flounders out. The classic "Besame Mucho" caps off an overall commendable effort from a group with a lot of potential.
Track Listing: Man From Tanganyika; Chico; Chinita Linda; Shiny Stockings; Mambo Influenciado; Chick's Delight; Summertime; Song For Sandy; Renaissance Man; Besame Mucho
Personnel: Jeff Benedict (saxophones), Jacques Voyemant (trombone), Dave Asken (guitar), Paul De Castro (piano), Rigoberto Lopez (bass), Bob Fernandez (congas), Jimmy Branly (timbales) Special Guest Bobby Shew (trumpet)
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.