While lines are continually being drawn and redrawn to describe old and new Latin jazz styles, Sonido Isleño has created its own definition on Vive Jazz. Led by Dr. Benjamin Lapidus, who earned a doctorate in music, the band plays a mix of jazz and Spanish-Caribbean folk music which is authentic and highly accessible. Lapidus states his intent for the music is "to look for ways to put jazz into Latin music rather than making Latin music subordinate to jazz. The key musical components include spicy clave rhythms, soulful vocals, and rich string work by Lapidus, who is a tres and cuatro (Cuban and Puerto Rican guitar) master.
Vive Jazz is not just a Latin jazz derivative, but more a showcase of what this band is capable of. For starters they open with a funky little Latin boogaloo called "La Suegra spiced with tenor and guitar harmonies. This is followed by "East Of El Son, Wes Del Tres, dedicated to the roots of changüi music and the late guitar great Wes Montomery; the complexity of timbre revealed by Lapidus's instrument, combined with excellent percussion and vocals, gets into your blood. The title piece is the showcase of the band's power, covering mainstream swing and poetry, culminating in an infectious cadence with echoing lead and chorus voices.
For the most part danceable tempos are in abundance on songs like "Green Mill Mambo and "Tambora, but things do simmer down on "M&D, where Lapidus adopts a Wes Montgomery persona on electric guitar through smooth phrasing. The only odd tune, which may be intentional, is "Orntetteando," dedicated to Ornette Coleman; here the festive background is loaded with dissonant string and horn sounds. But this recording truly stands because of the compositions with traditional claves where the music pulsates with an infectious and timeless fire.
Track Listing: La Suegra; East Of El Son, Wes Del Tres; Taino; Vive Jazz; Heebaro; Tambora; Ornetteando;
M&D; Green Mill Mambo; Dialectics Of A Soplapote.
Personnel: Benjamin Lapidus: guitar, tres, cuatro, marimbula, coro;
Francisco Javier Cotto: bass, coro;
Felix Sanabria: congas, chkere, pandereta;
Hector M. Torres: timbales, guagua, giro, coro;
Paul Carlon: tenor saxophone, flute;
Evan Rapport: alto saxophone;
Matt Ray: piano, side-splitting tumor;
Harvie S.: bass (4);
William Bausch: drum set (4);
Greg Glassman: trumpet (4);
Pedro Pablo Martinez: lead vocals, coro (4);
Alberto "1st Male Bertie Joe" Levy: poem recitation (4);
Jonathan Troncoso: tambora, gira (6);
Juan Usera: pandereta (10);
Jainardo Batista: guia, coro, maracas (2,7);
Antonio DeVivo: coro, bong de monte, guayo (2).