Art Blakey didn't literally write books, but it could be said that he "wrote the book : first, on jazz drumming, incorporating the essence of swing, extroverted drum solos and some genuinely unique beats that have escaped deeper absorption by contemporary drummers; second, on bandleading, constantly scouting and presenting great (often, younger) talent; and third, on incorporating Afro-Cuban influences into jazz. There could easily be a couple of tribute concerts and recordings to him every year, but as far as tributes go, Rumba Buhaina is the gold standard. It's a winner on every level and it's particularly fitting that another great bandleader, Jerry Gonzalez, is putting it out there.
The CD starts with Benny Golson's "Along Came Betty (from Blakey's Moanin', 1958), the slowly swinging melody developing over an intense, double time guaguanco rhythm provided by Jerry Gonzalez's congas and Steve Berrios' drums and percussion. The first soloist is altoist Joe Ford, who navigates the beautiful harmonies with great feeling. Pianist Larry Willis followshis and Gonzalez's trumpet solos are in the spirit of the Jazz Messengers: direct and uplifting.
Freddie Hubbard's "Crisis enters with urgency after "Betty, another great tune that provides fuel for excellent melodic solos and rhythmic fire. Jerry's brother Andy's bass playing has great tone and drive throughout this recording but comes to the fore on "Rhumba Buhaina, an original piece that has so much fresh energy that you can hear the musicians laugh at times.
Other great tunes (and performances) include "Up Jumped Spring (by Hubbard), "This is for Albert, "United, "One by One (by Wayne Shorter), "Madi's Smile (by Joe Ford) and "The Day You Said Goodbye (by Larry Willis). A beautiful rendition of Monk's "Ask Me Now closes the disc and features intimate and emotive trumpet playing by the leader.
This recording is dedicated to saxophonist John Stubblefield, who played with the Fort Apache Band and passed away in 2005. Call it jazz or Latin jazz, a rose by any other name... this is some of the best music by one of the best bands around today.
Along Came Betty; Crisis; This is for Albert; Up Jumped Spring; Madi's Smile; Wildflower; United; The Day You Said Goodbye; One by One; Rumba Buhaina; Ask Me Now.
Jerry Gonzalez: trumpet, flugelhorn, congas, percussion; Joe Ford: alto and soprano saxophones; Larry Willis: piano; Andy Gonzalez: bass; Steve Berrios: drums and percussion.