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Album Review

Tito Carrillo: Urbanessence

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Tito Carrillo: Urbanessence
Urbanessence, the second album as leader from Chicago-area trumpeter, composer and educator Tito Carrillo, is a rhythmic showcase for ten of his buoyant original compositions, all of which embody his love of BAM (Black American Music) and the lyric legacy of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Brazil and Peru.

Carrillo, a bold and burnished improviser from the Freddie Hubbard-Lee Morgan-Donald Byrd school of hard bop, shares the front line with the energetic and versatile saxophonist Troy Roberts (who plays tenor sax most of the way) in a sextet whose other members are pianist Ben Lewis, bassist Clark Sommers, drummer Jay Sawyer and, last but by no means least, conguero Victor Gonzalez who adds impressive color and vitality to most numbers.

There is "Momentum" from the outset, as the group digs in hard on the clave-based opening number and continues to do so on the emphatic soul-bossa "Fire & Ice" before tempering the throttle on the easygoing "Bliss Point." That leads to the glossy, good-natured title song, which precedes bassist Sommers' minute-long intro to "Crazy, Stupid Fine," Carrillo's earnest nod to some of his earlier soul-jazz influences. Some surface noises arise during the early moments of the lively "Poor to Rico," and it is hard to say whether they are deliberate or unplanned. No matter, as they vanish after the first few bars, after which Carrillo, Lewis and Gonzalez deliver eloquent solos amid varying time signatures.

"Up the Down Staircase," introduced by Lewis, is a seductive exercise in balladry on which Carrillo's flugelhorn holds sway, while "Justice & Mercy" offers more of the same, punctuated by Sawyer's crisp drum solo and some upper register shrieking by Roberts. "Fly by Night," the album's penultimate number, is one of its more pleasant surprises, a straight-ahead swinger with torrid solos by Carrillo and Roberts and robust support from everyone. Carrillo and Lewis ring down the curtain with "Sublime," a lovely ballad dedicated to the late trumpeter Roy Hargrove.

In sum, an above-average session with a number of highlights, not least Carrillo's splendid charts and engaging solos. Well worth a listen.

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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