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Album Review

Tito Carrillo: Urbanessence

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Tito Carrillo: Urbanessence
Trumpeter Tito Carillo's second bite of the apple on Origin was more than a decade in the making, following up his outstanding first release, Opening Statement (Origin, 2011). With Urbanessence (Origin, 2022), the Chicago-based artist is truly up to the task, producing a work which is an homage to everyday life in the city. The narrative makes the point that cities are home to creators, visionaries and an army of people who are motivated by the hope they provide. Cities are places where people interact with others who look and speak differently, whose vision of the world comes from a different place. That perfectly sums up the relationship between Latin music and the outgrowths of jazz born from the Bebop tradition, moving forward into the broad stretches of post-bop jazz. For Carillo, this collection of original compositions reflects his Latin and BAM roots, and their common ancestral roots in Africa.

The opener, "Momentum," is a case in point. The clave-based piece is in 11/4 time over the top of a son montuno rhythm. The title track is a high energy composition which features the entire band, driven by an ostinato bass line from bassist Clark Sommers which invites adventurous interaction among the main protagonists—trumpeter Carillo, tour-de-force tenor saxophonist Troy Roberts and pianist Ben Lewis. Drummer Jay Sawyer works in perfect sync with conguero Victor Gonzalez, creating with Sommers a soul-tinged, deep city vibe which draws the listener in for keeps. Carillo's artistry is on full display, drawing from many influences into one cohesive medium of expression, very much in the wake of trumpet greats such as Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw. Comps aside, he plays what seems natural to him as a purveyor of Black Music of the Americas, channeled into its most fully realized form in jazz.

The jazz community in Chicago or, for that matter, throughout urban America and the world, is not so large. Each individual community has its own character, its own vibe, based on the cultural makeup of the city of origin. The musical interaction between this collection of individual scenes creates a common fabric which unites them in a very real and personal way. The result is interactions based on the pursuit of beauty within the framework of this sacred pursuit. In the end, it is a path to love. The music of Tito Carillo could be described in the same way. We are here together, we must unite in joy and music.

Each member of the band seems to find their way through this session with their own voice stamped prominently on the proceedings, for instance bassist Sommers' vicious bottom end on "Crazy, Stupid Fine, or Robert's incendiary playing throughout the first ten tracks. There are fire and grace, rapid-fire assaults and long-toned refinement.

Of course, one has to drift to an album's one or two ballads on a given recording, to truly have a handle on the degree of artistry contained within. Carillo's "Sublime" is that piece on this record. A melancholy tribute to Roy Hargrove expresses an emotional homage to a trumpeter Carillo never met, yet was touched deeply by his playing, music and leadership in the international jazz community. Performing on flugelhorn, Carillo's playing cuts deep, evoking images of the gone-too-soon Hargrove and the profound music he gifted Carillo and the entire musical universe.

Urbanessence is an exercise in community and the fellowship it provides. It illuminates the beauty and possibilities of a world united in hope. Its narrative is like a strong wind blowing away the residue of the daily grind, revealing the brilliance of our community united in music.

Track Listing

Momentum; Fire & Ice; Bliss Point; Urbanessence; Crazy, Stupid Fine (Bass Intro); Crazy, Stupid Fine; Poor to Rico; Up the Down Staircase; Justice & Mercy (for Bryan Stevenson); Fly by Night; Sublime (for Roy Hargrove).

Personnel

Tito Carrillo: trumpet; Troy Roberts: saxophone; Ben Lewis: piano; Clark Sommers: bass; Jay Sawyer: drums; Victor Gonzalez: congas.

Album information

Title: Urbanessence | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Origin Records


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