There’s really nothing wrong with this record – singing’s a bit off here and there but the playing and arrangements are fabulous, the soloing never less than effective and, frequently, thanks to Gilkes and Aldana, in a class above exceptional. In fact this may be the record of Aldana (ts) and Gilkes (tb), technically and creatively outstanding players. How often do you hear music of this quality in the UK or Europe? Maybe Brexit is ok and we should fully Americanise – nothing chlorinated or sanitised here. I take that first bit back.
Leader and bassist Henriquez has been 20 years in Wynton Marsalis’s Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra but despite its conservatism it’s done his musical sense no harm; further, for or all its reliance on subsidy, that band is as sharp as any commercial band and Rodriguez applies the same standards here.
This set sounds more Latin than its inspiration’s bands did and the title might suggest the addition of even more clave (in a broad sense, to represent Caribbean music in general) than Gillespie employed. Dizzy and Chano Pozo’s Cubop offered a Westernised version of Cuba but Henriquez seems to have been been back closer to the source. He says this music “amplifies” Gillespie’s style, and it does. There’s more here of the Cuban roots, adding a more primitivist, African flavour to proceedings, manifested in large part in those ensemble coro breaks – slightly tuneless as great instrumentalists can be but thus seeming amateurishly authentic, impromptu.
As intimated, there isn’t a dull moment so I’ll focus on the exceptional ones, mostly from the spectacular Chilean saxophonist Melissa Aldana and trombonist Marshall Gilkes. I thought years ago that Conrad Herwig had said the final word on jazz trombone but Gilkes has him covered, not so much technically as expressively with conversational, harmonically tricksy outings on “Guarachi Guaro” (check that sly transposition at 7.16) and “Tin Tin Deo” that will grab your ear. Aldana’s dad was a saxophonist who set his daughter on the jazz path, and she has excelled. Her solo on “Night in Tunisia” will have you thinking Michael Brecker is back. She has beautiful tone, and for detailed evidence of her skill note how she progressively bashes a little motif into different shapes across time and pitch from 3.10 to 3.23 until she reaches the top of the hill and glides down the other side, leaving you breathless. Talk about articulate.
So, a tremendous achievement for all concerned, an octet that needs to come to Europe and its outlying islands and give local pretensions to musical glory a run for their money.
A Night in Tunisia; Groovin’ High; Bebop; Guarachi Guaro; Con Alma; Manteca; Kush; Tin Tin Deo; Trinidad, Goodbye (74.00)
Michael Rodriguez (t, coro); Terrell Stafford (t); Marshall Gilkes (tb, coro); Melissa Aldana (ts); Manuel Valera (p); Anthony Almonte (cga, v); Henriquez (b, coro, ldr); Obed Calvaire (d). Live from Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, NYC, 28-29 December 2017.
RodBros Music 1002