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Pulling jazz and salsa into a unique mixture requires a balance between freedom and structure. Salsa recordings benefit from tightly arranged forms with commercially dictated norms. Jazz thrives upon variation and the liberty to explore new directions spontaneously. Vibraphonist Alfredo Naranjo and his musicians find an aesthetic balance between freedom and structure on Y El Guajeo, exploring a repertoire that moves between instrumental Latin jazz and danceable salsa.
Several tracks maintain an instrumental focus, creating arranged platforms for improvisation. A child's chorus calls out to Tito Puente on the tribute piece "Master Tito," quickly bursting into a chromatic melody over an up-tempo son montuno. The song moves into a half time cha cha cha that contains solos from Naranjo, trumpeter Gerald Chacïn, flautist Luis Julio Toro, and trombonist Jimmy Bosch.
The wind players storm through tricky melodic twists on "Mi socio," complimented by a carefully constructed rhythm section part with intricate hits. Bosch's growling tone demands attention, while saxophonist Pablo Gil presents rhythmic statements. Each arrangement allows the musicians to explore creative avenues without imposing on their improvisatory space.
Other songs build form around a vocal performance, while keeping improvisation on an equal balance. Naranjo embellishes a bombastic introduction with timpani hits on "Los Caballos," before the coro presents the main melody. A polyrhythmic series of chordal hits supports quick solos from conguero Miguel Urbina, timbalero Frank Mïrquez, and bongocero Cheo Navarro. A long chromatic fall resolves into a quotation of Dizzy Gillespie's "Salt Peanuts" and a short solo from Naranjo on "Caramelo." Vocalist Edgar Quijada delivers strong prïgones, leading into a clever mambo with a variation on Dizzy Gillespie's "Manteca". The vocals create an energetic connection between the improvisatory nature of jazz and the appeal of dance music.
Some pieces move into a purely salsa category, but maintain the loose performance aesthetic of a descarga. Gil's soprano sax introduces "Baila" with a smooth sound, moving into a subdued rhythm section texture. An interesting interlude includes short solos from trumpet player Javier Vivas, Gil, and Naranjo, and then a mambo based upon a staggering montuno. A standard mambo opens "Cïmprame mi disco," giving way to Quijada's vocals. The lyrics ask the listener to buy the CD instead of finding a pirated copy, which gives Quijada ample fuel for pregones. Each piece brings the album a strong dance feel, but their extensive inclusion of improvisation maintains a jazz connection.
Naranjo moves between jazz and dance aesthetics fluidly on Y El Guajeo, developing tight arrangements driven by improvisatory performances. The album smartly integrates simple dance patterns, jazz harmony, standard coros and chromatic melodies. The arrangements connect this broad stylistic palette with an intensive rhythmic approach. The rhythm section interacts with the arrangements through intricately connected breaks and improvised embellishments. The musicians perform each song enthusiastically, instilling the album with a distinct personality.
Naranjo finds the best of the jazz and dance worlds, creating an exciting blend that brings together freedom and arrangement into an irresistible recording.
Track Listing: Introducci?n; Mi socio; Guajeo y su rumbat?; Mueve; Los caballos; Ella; Linda; C?mprame mi disco; Master Tito; Caramelo; Baila; Guajeando; Dile que venga; Payaso.
Personnel: Alfredo Naranjo: vibraphone, xylophone (1), piano (3), guiro (4-6, 8-11), timpani (5), congas (12), timbales (12), vocals (2, 4-6, 8-11, 13, 14); Luz Mabel Medina: piano (1, 3, 12); David Pe?a: bass (1); Miguel Urbina: bata drums (1, 3), congas (2, 4-11, 13, 14); quinto (3), clave (3), sheker (3); Jhony Rudas: bata drums (1, 3), congas (3); Kenny Quintana: bata drums (1, 3), cascara (3); Gerardo Chac?n: bass (2, 5, 10); Luis Pacheco: piano (2, 7, 10, 13); Frank M?rquez: timbales (2, 4-11, 13, 14); Cheo Navarro: bongo (2, 4, 5, 8-11, 13, 14); Gerard Chac?n: trumpet (2, 4, 9); Eric Chac?n: flute (2, 4-8, 10, 11, 14); Pablo Gil: tenor sax (2, 9, 11); Jimmy Bosch: trombone (2, 9); Francisco Vielma: percussion (2); Edgar Quijada: vocals
(2, 4-11, 13, 14); Carlos Hurtado: vocals (2, 4-6, 8-11, 13, 14); Javier Vivas: trumpet (4-8, 10, 11, 13, 14), vocals (2, 4-6, 8-11, 13, 14); Carlos Rodriguez: bass (3, 4, 6-9, 11, 13, 14); Jos? Torres: piano (4-6, 8, 9, 11, 14); Ali Bello: violin (4); Luis Julio Toro: piccolo (9); Adri?n Eloy Naranjo: vocals (9); Luis Alejandro
Medina: vocals (9).
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.