It was back in 1990 when Mark Monts de Oca and Jimmy Rivera assembled a quartet together at the Apple Jazz Club located on Calle Loíza in Santurce, Puerto Rico, with Tony Batista and Andrew Avelino. The group achieved great success becoming widely renowned in Puerto Rico and notably performed at the Heineken Jazz Festival in 1993. Thirty years on and the ensemble have reconvened with additional woodwinds including trumpets and flute with extensive percussion.
What played a considerable factor in this group’s coming together was Mini’s, a jazz club that started in the late 1970s on Calle Loíza. It was the primary standing ground for jazz musicians including drummer Rivera to experience jam sessions and develop musical understanding.
There Will Never Be Another You features eight jazz standards in honour of Puerto Rican figures such as trumpeter Juancito Torres and Mongo Santamaría. In addition to paying tribute to notable local inspirations, this album revamps standards using typical Puerto Rican rhythm, creating versions that are commendable for their invention and exhilaration.
Miles Davis is advertised strongly in this release, noted for Seven Steps To Heaven alongside Victor Feldman; it’s transformed into a Latin groove brimming with energy on top of a Davis-inspired version of Someday My Prince Will Come which I was impressed to see credited correctly to Churchill and Morey.
The notable Willard Robison composition, Old Folks, is reconstructed into a tranquil bolero whilst Dave Brubeck’s In Your Own Sweet Way carries heavy Brazilian percussion.
No Latin jazz fanatic needs to know the history of this group to appreciate what they present on There Will Never Be Another You. However, for jazz devotees that don’t often venture into Latin jazz this album is a perfect crossover, showcasing acknowledged standards with Latin flair. It’s great to see and hear that jazz is alive and well in Puerto Rico.
Seven Steps to Heaven; Someday My Prince Will Come; Stolen Moments; Dolphin Dance; Old Folks; In Your Own Sweet Way; Well, You Needn’t; There Will Never Be Another You (59.03)
Mark Monts de Oca (p); Tony Batista (b); Xavier Barreto (f); André Avelino (g); Candido Reyes (gu); Jimmy Rivera (d); Reinel López (Brazilian pc); Melvin Jones & Gordon Vernick (t); Javier Oquendo (cga); Ivan Belvis (pc). San Juan, Puerto Rico, March 2019.