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All-star bands create music that brims with possibilities; yet the outcome runs the risk of positive or negative results. Combining high caliber musicians brings expectations of powerful music. Experience gives these artists knowledge and skill, increasing the chance of memorable music. When distinctive artists join forces, a possible mismatch can also occur. Groups sometimes lack a central focus, and the resultant recordings capture grand jam sessions. Each musician's individual approach shines through, but the voices never gel. José Rizo's Jazz on the Latin Side All Stars emphasizes positive results on Tambolero, bringing Los Angeles' top Latin jazz musicians together into an outstanding big band.
Rizo's musical voice provides focus to several strong jazz tracks. An open feeling permeates "Granizo, leading into an up-tempo rhythmic melody. A woodwind soli launches saxophonist Justo Almario's energetic statement, accentuated by powerful brass punches. A thin texture accompanies the 6/8 rhythm on "Señor Olmos, only to be attacked by sharp band hits. Baritone saxophonist Scott Martin's improvisation explores the rhythmic foundation, and Francisco Aguabella provides a thoughtful bata solo. Each track highlights Rizo's musical taste, built upon a thorough knowledge of Latin music and jazz.
Some songs touch upon Latin dance music, while maintaining a solid jazz background. A Tito Puente-influenced mambo on "Mama Vieja quickly makes way for Freddie Crespo's strong vocal. The clever horn writing and rhythm section unity provide a perfect feature for Crespo. A subdued montuno opens the Cha Cha Cha "Baila Mi Gente, soon joined by a popular coro. Flautist Danilo Lozano creates a rhythmic solo, until Poncho Sanchez's distinctive conga phrasing builds into a powerful solo. These songs maintains a dance music foundation embellished with jazz harmony, improvisation, and interesting arrangements.
Other pieces reference the ensemble's traditional side, confirming a jazz background. A saxophone riff hints at the melody to Charlie Parker's "Ah Leu Cha, which fits comfortably into a salsa rhythm. Trumpet player Bijon Watson navigates the song's complex harmony with short rhythmic ideas until trombonist Andy Martin creates contrast with long jazz lines. A textural introduction opens an intensive version of Wayne Shorter's "Yes or No. Trumpet player Gilbert Castellanos plays a virtuosic solo, balancing technique and musical taste. Almario's statement shines with personality, building into drummer Marvin "Smitty Smith's colorful improvisation. The group's jazz roots balance their Latin focus, resulting in equal respect for both genres.
The Jazz on the Latin Side All Stars deliver exhilarating results on Tambolero, setting an example for musical collaboration. Rizo combines musicians from several generations, resulting in a well-versed group. As a composer, Rizo brings together an extensive knowledge of Latin music history and a tasteful musicianship. Francisco Torres' arrangements contain a rich harmonic approach, diverse rhythmic settings, and varied textures that provide challenging material. The performers respond enthusiastically to Rizo and Torres' dedication, transmitting pride and professionalism. Tambolero not only more than fulfills the possibilities created by gathering these musicians; it confirms their all-star status.
Track Listing: Granizo; Amanecer Intro; Amanecer; Ah Leu Cha; Yes or No; Baila Mi Gente; Buscando al Curandero; Danilo en la Flauta; Mama Vieja; SeŮor Olmos; El Eco del Tambo.
Personnel: Justo Almario: tenor sax, clarinet, flute; Marvin "Smitty" Smith: drums; Alex Acuna: drums; Poncho Sanchez: congas; Joey De Leon: congas, bata, percussion; Jimmy Branly: timbales; Francisco Aguabella: congas, bata; Rene Camacho: bass; Joe Rotondi: piano; Alfredo Ortiz: vocals, bongo, percussion; Chris Barron: piano; Danilo Lozano: flute; Freddie Crespo: lead vocals; Scott Martin: baritone sax; Robert Incelli: alto sax; Eric Jorgensen: trombone; Andy Martin: trombone; Francisco Torres: trombone; Bijon Watson: trumpet; Gilbert Castellanos: trumpet; Luis Eric Gonzalez: trumpet.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.