JAZZ TANGO FUSION / PIAZZOLA: Imagenes. Libertango. Michelangelo 70. Chin Chin. BOTTI: Tango Blues. Upper West. Melodia para Agustin. ZIEGLER: Celtic Feast.* Milongueta* / Julio Botti, t-sax/*s-sax; Eduardo Withrington, Hammond B3 org/Fender Rhodes pno; Andrew Baird, Juampy Juarez, gtr; Tiago Michelin, dm / Zoho ZM 201907
I’m very picky when it comes to Latin jazz. I tend to gravitate to the most creative exponents of the genre; much of it sounds the same to me; but Julio Botti takes a very fresh look at this music in this CD, playing his tenor sax fairly low in its range and relatively softly and adding some very interesting counter-lines in the piano/organ parts. He also breaks up the rhythm in interesting ways, as one can immediately hear in the opening. Astor Piazzola’s Imagenes.
The music creates a warm ambience but is not “ambient jazz.” There is a great deal of substance here, and he makes these pieces come across with structure in the form of theme-and-development. Indeed, the subtlety of his small band sounds like a modernized version of the Stan Getz style of the early 1960s. As Imagenes progresses, Botti plays with more edge to his sound yet continues to retain a warm ambience, and during the more adventurous parts of his solo drummer Tiago Michelin plays some very complex figures.
Botti’s original tune Tango Blues is up next, a piece that mixes Latin rhythm with a blues feel. Eduardo Withrington’s Fender Rhodes solo is also quite imaginative, with unusual upward leaps and a sort of serrated feel to the line. I was again impressed by Botti’s control of his horn: he knows how to elicit interesting lines and phrases without overdoing the “outside” elements of his playing. Just as he rewrote Piazzola’s Imagenes, he also makes something much more interesting of the same composer’s Libertango than most musician do, taking it at a relaxed 4 with just a hint of Latin rhythm, again broken up by drummer Michelin, whose subtle yet complex playing also makes up for the lack of a bass. Guitarist Juampy Juarez is one of those soft players, but his solos are interesting and primarily jazz and blues influenced, which I liked very much. The same composer’s Michaelangelo 70 is transformed into a sort of 5/4 piece with irregular distributions of the meter. Again, innovative and interesting. Juarez’ guitar solo here is also much bluesier.
The listener should not take the title of Pablo Ziegler’s Celtic Feast too literally, as once again the music is transformed into something quite different, again with an irregular meter. On this one, Botti plays soprano rather than tenor sax, to good effect and Withrington switches to the Hammond B3 organ. Yet another Piazzola piece, Chin Chin, comes up next, here converted into a sort of funky medium-uptempo piece with accents on the off-beats. Curiously, Botti almost makes this one almost sound like a hora, at least until the middle section when the tempo is suddenly relaxed and slowed down for the leader’s tenor solo over Fender Rhodes. Juarez also plays a fine solo on this one.
Ziegler’s Milongeta is played in a medium-slow 3, again with Botti on soprano. This one, too, slowly decreases in tempo until it almost stand still, then picks up again for some nice Fender Rhodes fills and a lovely improvisation by the leader. This is followed by another Botti original, Upperwest, played in a combination Latin-bop style, and the leader gets a tremendously interesting and well-developed solo, later playing a nice chase chorus with Juarez.
The closer is a ballad by Botti, Melodia para Agustin, taken at a slow 4 and featuring his tenor in a mellow mood. The melody line is not a memorable one but I liked the way he introduces a break-up of the melodic line in a rhythmic fashion.
Quite a nice album, then: soft but not mushy jazz, imaginatively arranged and creatively played!
—© 2019 Lynn René Bayley
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