THE RHYTHM OF INVENTION / PALMIERI: Vamanos Pa’l Monte. DESMOND: Take Five. KERN-HAMMERSTEIN: All the Things You Are. DAVIS/ROMBERG-HAMMERSTEIN: So Softly [So What/Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise]. WALLACE: The Rhythm of Invention.* El Arroyo. Se Me Cayó El Veinte. Atardecer Matancero [Evening in Matamzas]. Mi Descarga. BEIDERBECKE: In a Mist / Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet: Wallace, tb; Murray Low, pno; David Belove, bs; Colin Douglas, dm/perc; Michael Spiro, congas/perc w/special guests: Dayren Santamaria, Eugene Chuklov, Niki Fukada, Maria Romero, Daniel Stein, vln; Edith Szendrey, Rose Wollman, vla; Kelly Knox, Monica Scott, cel; Erik Jekabson, John Worley, tpt; Miró Sobrer, Matthew Waterman, Sean Weber, tb; Brennan Johns, bs-tb; Mary Fettig, fl/s-sax/a-sax/bs-cl; Masaru Koga, t-sax; Melecio Magdaluyo, bar-sax; *Dr. David Baker, pre-recorded interview & Akida Thomas, speaker / Patois Records PRCD-023
As I’ve said many times, Latin jazz as such is rhythmically invigorating but normally not harmonically interesting. I make exceptions for the wonderful charts played by the old Dizzy Gillespie big band of the 1940s because most of their Latin repertoire was intermixed with jazz and a few such charts by Clare Fischer, but when I listen to Latin jazz that’s what I want to hear: some interesting harmonies and at times interesting chord changes.
Trombonist-composer-group leader Wayne Wallace understands this. If you scan the list of pieces played in this set, outside of the tunes that are indeed basically Latin like Eddie Palmieri’s Vamanos Pa’l Monte and the Latin-titled pieces written by Wallace—which are indeed mixed with jazz structures and harmonies—you’ll note some very surprising titles such as Paul Desmond’s Take Five, the Kern-Hammerstein All the Things You Are, Miles Davis’ So What blended into Romberg’s Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise and, perhaps most surprising of all, Bix Beiderbecke’s piano piece In a Mist. This is not your ordinary Latin jazz album.
With that being said, the opener is mostly ensemble with lots of conga drums and only a few spot solos, but the scoring is unconventional, combining flute with trombones, and one of the spot solos is played by violinist Dayren Santamaria. Take Five also spots the ensemble, but also a nice alto sax solo by Mary Fettig and the leader on trombone. Their arrangement of All the Things You Are sports a nine-piece string section, which I didn’t mind once the piece got rolling but which I felt played in a typically pseudo-classical style in the introduction. Wallace’s trombone takes center stage in this one, to very good effect, but there is also a nice piano solo by Murray Low. The ensemble choruses that follow are very imaginatively arranged, particularly in the displacement of rhythm.
The hybrid arrangement of So Softly begins with a lot of percussion before moving into Romberg’s theme on the trombone, later backed by the group of guest trombones and bass trombone. The piano solo is ruminative, almost gentle, before a crisp ensemble section with congas. The piano then moves into a rather quick-tempoed version of So What? that is wedded seamlessly to the initial tune before an extended ride-out.
The title track includes a somewhat mundane prose poem written by and spoken by Akida Thomas as well as a pre-recorded interview from 1970 with Dr. David Baker, the jazz teacher at Indiana University who recently passed away, but the music is interesting as is the scoring. Their arrangement of In a Mist, though ingenious, relegates the first half of theme to the string section, followed by Wallace playing the second section and the two together splitting the break. Because this is the most complex composition on the album, the arrangement and performance stand out, for me, as the highlight of the album. Wallace’s El Arroyo is a pretty good composition, again starring his trombone, although by this time the focus is primarily on simpler tune construction with the steady Latin beat—though there is a nice ensemble passage for flute and strings that really swings.
With Atardecer Matancero we get a real change of pace, a Latin ballad tempo. The tune is much richer in construction, and again Wallace uses the trombone choir to very good effect. Low solos first on piano before Wallace enters, and at this point the tempo doubles behind him. The finale, Mi Descarga, is a straightahead, energetic Latin piece with a spot solo from Melecio Magdaluyo on baritone sax and another by one of the trumpet players before Low plays some exchanges with bassist David Belove and the ensemble plays Latin riffs against chanting by the band.
This is a pretty interesting and enjoyable album of Latin-based jazz with some very interersting twists!
—© 2019 Lynn René Bayley
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