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Metal Caribe: Richie Zellon

Ed Kopp By

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Here's a fun release that displays a high level of musicianship and a strong sense of humor. Driven by Richie Zellon's fiery guitar work and strong doses of percussion, Metal Caribe offers clever original compositions and electric Latin-jazz interpretations of pop, rock, and classical tunes.

Richie Zellon is a Peruvian-born guitarist who currently resides in the U.S. The CD booklet proclaims that Zellon is "the Frank Zappa of Latin jazz," and while this description is sometimes valid, it only tells part of the story. Zellon’s music can be wild and wacky, but it can also be a very lyrical. (Check out the beautiful "Tel Aviv Blue.")

All the tracks on Metal Caribe are enjoyable, but my favorites include the cha-cha take on Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love," a complex Afro-Cuban tune called "Blue Whale Street," a Cuban-jazz version of Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water," and an improbable but wonderful merengue-meets-klezmer piece called "Rabbi Merrenguewiz." The CD also provides off-the-wall versions of "The Twilight Zone" and Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf," as well as various original numbers that showcase an impressive array of Latin-jazz styles from samba to festejo to mambo.

The supporting cast includes Dave Samuels on vibes, Alex Acuna on drums, Dave Liebman and Jerry Bergonzi on saxophones, Edward Simon on piano, Orlando Sanchez on percussion, and Oscar Stagnaro on bass. The vibe here ranges from subtle Latin jazz to loud guitar-propelled fusion.

Metal Caribe is that rare CD that manages to blend pop styles and complicated jazz in fun and interesting ways. It should appeal to all fans of electric Latin jazz and uncomprising fusion.

Title: Richie Zellon | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Songosaurus Music

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