Albums

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Latin Jazz - Released September 15, 2017 | Motema

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Without the pianist Bebo Valdés and the trumpet player Chico O'Farrill, Afro-Cuban music and jazz would be quite different. Their way of playing, their compositions and their arrangements for big-bands have influenced hordes of musicians. Their story is also a reflection of the solid artistic links unifying Cuba and the United States, far away from the diplomatic and politic quarrels… Here, their sons Chucho Valdés and Arturo O'Farrill (two musical giants as well) celebrate this legacy. With Familia: Tribute To Bebo And Chico, the two pianists take care to ensure that this celebration doesn’t smell like mothballs. On the contrary! They take the Afro-Cuban jazz tradition to rather enjoyable new harmonic and rhythmic horizons. The level of the other members of the two families is really astonishing: the pianist Leyanis Valdés, the drummers Jessie Valdés and Adam O'Farrill and the trumpet player Zack O'Farrill all offer virtuoso performances, mixing their grandfathers’ music with original compositions. And to highlight even more the open-mindedness of these brilliant protagonists, Familia: Tribute To Bebo And Chico ends on a title that welcomes the sitarist Anoushka Shankar! In short, this album is a pure wonder. © MZ/Qobuz
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Latin Jazz - Released March 15, 2011 | world village

Although Omar Sosa has excelled in group settings, the Cuban pianist has demonstrated that he is also quite comfortable playing unaccompanied, which is what he does on Calma. Sosa has no accompaniment at all on Calma, a 2009 recording that combines post-bop with elements of world music and Euro-classical music. He not only plays the acoustic piano here; but is also heard on electric keyboards and using some sampling and electronics. And the very fact that Sosa doesn't adhere to an all-acoustic-all-the-time policy on this 51-minute CD will no doubt scare jazz purists away. Regardless, Sosa's acoustic piano is the dominant instrument, and 95-percent of the time, Calma sounds played rather than programmed. In both Spanish and Italian, the word "calma" means "calm", which is exactly how Sosa sounds on this album; his playing is calm and relaxed, and a contemplative mood prevails on originals such as "Innocence," "Esperanza," "Walking Together," and "Aguas." That is not to say that Calma is one-dimensional. Different world music influences assert themselves on different pieces, and during the course of the album, Sosa incorporates everything from Afro-Cuban music to Indian, Middle Eastern/Arabic, Asian, and North African music. Plus, there is the Euro-classical influence: "Dance of Reflection," for example, hints at Erik Satie (who died in 1925 but continues to influence both classical and jazz musicians after all these years). So even though Sosa maintains a certain mood on Calma, there is also a fair amount of variety. Again, Calma doesn't cater to jazz purists, and the rigid dogmatists and musical ideologues who think that Chick Corea, George Duke, and Herbie Hancock sold their souls to Beelzebub when they started playing electric keyboards, will want to avoid this album. But for those who realize that non-acoustic instruments do, in fact, have a place in jazz, Calma is yet another absorbing effort from Sosa. ~ Alex Henderson
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Latin Jazz - Released March 4, 2016 | Mack Avenue

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Latin Jazz - Released June 20, 2006 | Concord Music Group

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Latin Jazz - Released April 25, 2013 | White

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Latin Jazz - Released March 16, 2015 | world village

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Latin Jazz - Released February 23, 2018 | Mack Avenue Records

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Alfredo Rodriguez moved to the United States in January 2009. An uprooting that has never cut off the 32-year-old Cuban pianist from his origins and heritage. “When you live in your own country, you are immersed in that reality and you’re not necessarily conscious of all the different elements that make it what it is. I breathed Cuban music. Being outside that reality gives me a different perspective. Creating and playing this music has been like finding out who I am, all over again." Who is this talented Quincy Jones protégé? We already know. But his fourth album for Mack Avenue further highlights his ability to slide from one genre to the other, to slalom between eras and landscapes. Rodriguez’s resolutely plural jazz is always impressive, even when it takes on a challenge such as Besame Mucho. With drummer Michael Olivera and bassist Munir Hossn, he has built a style of jazz with multiple compartments, logically anchored in the tradition of his homeland and extremely rich musically. But it’s when his playing style is elsewhere that he appears more poetic than ever. The narrative strength of his piano takes over and he just goes along with it, eyes closed… It’s worth noting that Quincy, him again, is back to producing on this Little Dream to make it even more delightful! © Clotilde Maréchal/Qobuz
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Latin Jazz - Released May 15, 2015 | Okeh

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Latin Jazz - Released June 12, 2015 | Columbia - Legacy

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Although Mongo Santamaria's move to Columbia later signified his transition to crossover fare, his label debut, El Bravo!, makes no concessions or overtures to the pop charts. Armed with a batch of original compositions spanning from boleros to mortunos and backed by a crack session band including trumpeter Marty Sheller and flutist Hubert Laws, Santamaria delivers one of the finest traditional Latin jazz records of the mid-'60s. The virtues of the set are many: Santamaria's conga rhythms are fiery yet tasteful, Sheller's luminous arrangements boast an authentic Cuban flavor, and all of the musicians receive ample opportunity to shine, in particular Laws (whose charanga-inspired flute galvanizes the superb "Monica"). ~ Jason Ankeny
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Latin Jazz - Released February 23, 2018 | Mack Avenue Records

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Alfredo Rodriguez moved to the United States in January 2009. An uprooting that has never cut off the 32-year-old Cuban pianist from his origins and heritage. “When you live in your own country, you are immersed in that reality and you’re not necessarily conscious of all the different elements that make it what it is. I breathed Cuban music. Being outside that reality gives me a different perspective. Creating and playing this music has been like finding out who I am, all over again." Who is this talented Quincy Jones protégé? We already know. But his fourth album for Mack Avenue further highlights his ability to slide from one genre to the other, to slalom between eras and landscapes. Rodriguez’s resolutely plural jazz is always impressive, even when it takes on a challenge such as Besame Mucho. With drummer Michael Olivera and bassist Munir Hossn, he has built a style of jazz with multiple compartments, logically anchored in the tradition of his homeland and extremely rich musically. But it’s when his playing style is elsewhere that he appears more poetic than ever. The narrative strength of his piano takes over and he just goes along with it, eyes closed… It’s worth noting that Quincy, him again, is back to producing on this Little Dream to make it even more delightful! © Clotilde Maréchal/Qobuz
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Latin Jazz - Released March 17, 2011 | world village

In various interviews, salsa/Latin jazz master Ray Barretto has complained about hard bop artists who employ Afro-Cuban rhythms in a very obvious way -- artists who will take a familiar Thelonious Monk, Clifford Brown, or Bud Powell standard and "Latinize" it by adding a son, cha cha, mambo, danzon, or guaguancó groove. There is nothing wrong with that approach (which can be quite enjoyable), but there is also something to be said for using Afro-Cuban/salsa elements in a less obvious fashion -- which is what Omar Sosa does on Mulatos. This post-bop release doesn't beat listeners over the head with Afro-Cuban rhythms, but they're present nonetheless. They enrich Sosa's material in their own subtle way, and the Cuban pianist/keyboardist (who employs Paquito D'Rivera as a clarinetist on three selections) demonstrates that Afro-Cuban jazz doesn't have to be something as overt as playing Monk's "Well, You Needn't" as a descarga (Latin jam) or approaching George Gershwin's "I Can't Get Started" as a bolero (Latin ballad). Afro-Cuban music isn't the only type of world music that inspires Sosa on Mulatos, which was recorded in Paris in early 2004; Sosa also brings elements of Middle Eastern, North African, and Indian music to his post-bop. Dhafer Youssef (one of the sidemen) is featured on the oud, a traditional Arabic lute that is quite legendary in Middle Eastern music -- and Philippe Foch, another participant, appears on Indian tabla drums. Of course, the oud and the tablas aren't exactly prominent instruments in Afro-Cuban jazz or salsa, but they're major assets on Mulatos -- an album that paints a consistently attractive picture of Sosa's multicultural outlook. Mulatos is yet another broad-minded project that Sosa can be proud to have in his catalog. ~ Alex Henderson
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Latin Jazz - Released March 27, 2012 | Mack Avenue Records

Booklet
In 2006, the extraordinarily inventive, globally conscious Cuban pianist Alfredo Rodriguez was selected to perform at the Montreux Jazz Festival -- where he was invited to a gathering at the home of the festival's founder/director Claude Nobs, who asked him if he would play for Quincy Jones. Smitten ever since with the young virtuoso, Q not only calls him "one of the most prolific and gifted jazz pianists of the 21st century," but also developed Rodriguez's career and co-produced his rhythmically eclectic debut. Sounds of Space, whose sci-fi title reflects the dynamic personal adventure the pianist embarks on, launches with the multi-movement "Qbafrica," a swirl of hypnotic percussion, plucky bass, and colorful swatches of piano that draw from everything from Brazilian and African to Afro-Cuban and avant-garde jazz. This spirit of cultural unity finds its grounding in the much less frenetic, but still passionate ballad "Sueño de Paseo," a stroll through Havana featuring Ernesto Vega's lyrical soprano sax. Sometimes, titles are cleverly deceiving, as "Silence" is all boom and pluck, driven by throbbing basslines, bouncy percussion, and dark jumpy piano chordings and the title track is less esoteric than driving and hypnotic, with an insistent Latin groove under a whimsical, often spinning sax-piano duality. Another favorite is the frenetic joymaker "Cu-Bop," which celebrates Bud Powell and, for Rodriguez, reflects "how Bob would have sounded in Cuba if he had been born there." This is the kind of multi-cultural fusion that runs thematically through the set, although there are dramatic, off-the-point excursions such as "April," which is a self-contained ambient piano duet that blends jazz and classical tones in an unforgettable way. "Crossing the Border" is a frenetic recounting of a harrowing experience Rodriguez had when he first came to America -- and it's exciting that he found such powerfully percussive ways to express his gratitude for his shot at jazz stardom in the U.S. Jones' good instincts are the Latin jazz world's new good fortune. ~ Jonathan Widran
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Latin Jazz - Released June 8, 2018 | Zip Records

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Latin Jazz - Released August 26, 2010 | world village

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Latin Jazz - Released December 2, 2013 | world village

Distinctions 4 étoiles de Classica - Découverte JAZZ NEWS
"The title song, meaning 'wonderland,' opens with an extended piano solo that blossoms into a winsome soundscape..."
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Latin Jazz - Released September 22, 2009 | World Village France

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Latin Jazz - Released May 11, 2009 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

Not strictly a jazz album in the strict sense (it was originally issued as part of the Masters of MPB on LP in 1977), Slaves Mass has strong compositional themes among its seven tracks. The maestro Hermeto Pascoal plays everything from flutes, soprano saxophone, guitar, Fender Rhodes, acoustic piano and clavinet on this set, and enlists help from Ron Carter, Airto, Flora Purim, Raul DeSouza, David Maro and others. "Mixing Pot," is the opener and an anomaly in that it is a vanguard fusion tune where Pascoal really digs in and improvises. It also features the only appearance on this set of Alphonso Johnson on electric bass. In "Missa Dos Escravos," the title track, Pascoal's emblematic pig gives his first growls in a song dominated by Brazilian Indian references. Wonderfully and intricately composed, it centers around folk tropes. "Chorinho Para Ele" is a beautiful and modern choro with a somewhat challenging glissando bridge that really proposed new directions for the traditional genre. "Aquela Valsa" is a beautiful six/eight theme that turns into a samba with a beautiful trombone solo by DeSouza. "Cannon" is an utterly improvisational piece that meanders and winds around Pascoal's flute solo. Atonalism dominates the piano solo in "Escuta Meu Piano," which also presents bits and pieces of different styles (like baião) and folk songs. Hot samba improvisation is found in "Geléia de Cereja," that slips and slides through a variety of schema and dynamic changes without much internal focus, but it is a compelling bit of creative anarchy nonetheless in that it displays Pascoal's full range of restless musical and textural impulses -- as well as a beautiful soprano solo. Slaves Mass was finally issued on CD by Collectables in the United States in 2005. ~ Alvaro Neder & Thom Jurek
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Latin Jazz - Released December 20, 2013 | Brazilian Classics

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Latin Jazz - Released October 2, 2001 | Columbia

On this invigorating release, tenor saxophonist David Sánchez uses (primarily) the same working lineup that graced 2000's Melaza. He opted to produce this one himself, however. (Melaza was co-produced by Branford Marsalis.) Like its predecessor, Travesía resounds with rhythmic excitement and advanced compositional technique. But there's a bit more room for spacious lyricism, and even a bit of playfulness. A piece like altoist Miguel Zenon's "Joyful" wouldn't have fit the prevailing mood of Melaza, but here it sparkles. Zenon also penned "The Power of the Word," which closes Travesía on a more aggressive note. There's more non-original material this time around, including a fiery reworking of Wayne Shorter's "Prince of Darkness" and a non-ballad reading (without piano) of the Harold Arlen standard "Ill Wind." Three pieces drawn from Puerto Rican folk tradition -- "La Máchina," "Pra Dizer Adeus," and "Yo No Quiero Piedra" (the last also without piano) -- demonstrate Sánchez's inventiveness with the indigenous plena and bomba forms. The leader's three originals are also very strong: the urgent yet hopeful "Paz Pá Vieques," which begins and ends with lighthearted two-horn sparring; "River Tales," a sultry, dark melody in a dancing 6/8; and "Karla's Changes," a galloping piece, the title of which is probably inspired by Charles Mingus' "Sue's Changes." Magnificent playing abounds from Sánchez, Zenon, and the other main soloist, pianist Edsel Gomez. Despite the commercial pressures that come with a major-label recording career, Sánchez continues to maintain artistic independence and pursue a compelling and original vision. ~ David R. Adler
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Latin Jazz - Released April 7, 1997 | Columbia

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Gato Barbieri's first recording in a decade finds his distinctive (and always passionate) tenor tone still mostly intact. However, he does little other than state the 11 melodies (which range from catchy to completely forgettable), and the backing is quite anonymous, over-produced and obviously geared for potential radio airplay. In fact, if Gato's tenor were replaced by a vocalist, this would be a pop record. It is nice to have Barbieri back on the scene again, but he is capable of much better than this run-of-the-mill effort. ~ Scott Yanow

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Latin Jazz in the magazine
  • From Father to Son
    From Father to Son Chucho Valdés and Arturo O’Farrill celebrate the art of Bebo Valdés and Chico O’Farrill…