The Lincoln Center's Latin jazz big band shows off its paces on the opening "Havana Special," the first of only two instrumentals on Una Noche Inolvidable. Of the following three categoriesLatin jazz, jazz-influenced Latin music, and jazzless Latin musicthe third's absent here, and the second dominates.
With guest singing appearances by Herman Olivera and Claudie Acuña, the set's fairly dominated by their effective vocals. O'Farrill may have the only straight jazz solo, accompanied concerto-style by band following Olivera's announcement of his name. On "Havana Special" he has mere passage-work. Likewise, for other instances, the tenorist and trumpeter announced on "Buscando la Melodia" play brief interludes rather than jazz solos. The sole extended instrumental passage on that number is the spectacularly accomplished band, really comparable with the young Dizzy Gillespie organisation which premiered "Manteca" and "Cubano-be, Cubano-bop" in the 1940s. No signs of datedness, though: the trumpet section here is precise and fluent. "Volver a los 17," with Acuña, is a standout arrangement in which a trumpeter could have taken her place; and could the trombone interlude be extended, please?
The vocal duet which follows has cracking reed section work with sparkling alto lead. "Pianarabatibiri" (I shall type that only once) is the other instrumental, to be danced to, and less a jazz arrangement than some of the vocal numbers. Acuña's timing and phrasing are genuinely exciting on "Mi Amor Fugaz," and these and her suspensions of the beat aren't beyond this large band's powers of emulation: simply impressive.
For a strictly jazz interest this is very much a band to note, though not, perhaps, on a disc with so much singing or quite this repertoire. The singers were presumably paid money for their good work, although working with this ensemble was presumably a greater bonus.
Track Listing: Havana Special; Buscando La Melodia; Somos Novios; Estoy Como Nunca; Volver A Los 17;
Encantado De La Vida; Ensename Tu/Piensalo Bien;
Pianarabatibiri; Corazon Rebelde; La Ley Del Guaguanco; 1Mi Amor Fugaz; Don Fulano;
Avisale A Mi Contrario.
Personnel: Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra: Claudia Acuna, Herman Olivera (vocals); Mario Rivera, Bobby
Porcelli, Erica Von Kleist, Ivan Renta, Pablo Calgero (reeds); John Walsh, Michael Rodriguez,
Michael Philip Mossman, Joseph Magnarelli (trumpet); Luis Bonilla, Reynaldo Jorge, Noah
Bless (trombone); Douglas Purviance (bass trombone); Arturo O'Farrill (piano); Ruben
Rodriguez (bass instrument); Vince Cherico (drums); Joseph Julian Gonzalez, Milton
Cardona (percussion). Recorded at Rose Theater, Jazz At Lincoln Center, New York (Jan.