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In a world which seems increasingly to be defined by racial and cultural sectarianism, it's always heartening to come across an artist who chooses to express himself in a non-native contextparticularly when he does so with the poise that trumpeter Brian Lynch brings to Simpatico.
The album pairs Lynch with his frequent employer, Latin music piano legend Eddie Palmieri, who plays on seven of the nine tracks and who wrote or co-wrote five of them. The music is a caliente love affair between Lynch's swinging hard bop and the salsa tradition which Palmieri played a key role in creating back in the 1970s.
It's irrepressibly upbeat, joyous stuff which would probably work as well on the dancefloor as it does on a headset with a fat one. What distinguishes Simpatico from so many other Latin/jazz "collaborations"from the earliest, often very lame, Blue Note sessions (five or six heroin addicts, one conga player and a grab bag of lightly-Latin tunes) onwardsis Lynch's sincerity and depth of scholarship.
The very opposite of a cultural tourist, Lynch has over the last twenty years so immersed himself in Latin music, its rhythms and idioms, that he's utterly at home within the genre. This has won him the respect of elder statesmen like Palmieri and, equally unusually, of younger Latin bloods like those completing the lineup here. (In this sense, Lynch is analogous to Dutch/German harmonica player Hendrik Meurkens and Brazilian music).
The added soul-whammy bonusthe mark of greatness which lifts this album above practically all the others that have gone before itis Lynch's simultaneous pride in his own native tradition. He's a jazz player supremely at home in Latin music, not a jazz player trying to be a Latin player. His soloing, which is deeply responsive to the rhythms and instrumentation around him, is entirely free of cheap and easy "Latin" licks.
All this makes Simpatico that rare thing: a truly even handed meeting of cultures. Creative, swinging, hot jazz (and a couple of lovely ballads); authentic drums and percussion-rich salsa. And there are enough left-field touches happening on the marginsEdsel Gomez's spooky B3 work on "Jazzucar," Mario Rivera's chicken shack baritone saxophone on "Guajira Dubois"to keep you guessing. You'll be hitting the repeat button for hours.