Lucid Culture


David Buchbinder Draws a Straight Line Back to Andalucia

Medieval Andalucia was the musical mecca where the nobility of Europe sent their spoiled kids to learn how to play it. It was where Arabs, Jews and Spaniards traded riffs. The golden age of jazz was much the same. with its alchemy of African, European and Latino sounds. Trumpeter David Buchbinder‘s new album Walk to the Sea with his Odesssa/Havana group recalls those eras as well as Arturo O’Farrill and Steven Bernstein’s recent mashups of those sounds. It’s one of the best albums Tzadik has put out in recent years and one of the best of 2013.

The opening track, Coffee Works, is a a diptych, juxtaposing a slinky klezmer-tinged stroll and then triumphantly picking up the pace with a salsa groove lit up by Aleksandar Gajic’s stark, resonant violin, and then a spiraling Hilario Duran piano solo  A Duran arrangement of the traditional tune Landarico sets Maryem Hassan Tollar’s cool caramel vocals to a gorgeous minor-key jazz waltz, a blend of cutting-edge Fania era salsa, klezmer and jazz. Buchbinder’s chromatically bristling solo hands off to Roberto Occhipinti’s boomy bass, which gives John Johnson’s tenor and Duran’s piano a chance to conspire furtively as it goes doublespeed and then back.

The lone Duran composition here, Aventura Judia works variations on a similarly catchy chromatic salsa vamp with a lively exchange between Johnson and Buchbinder and a scampering piano solo, its web of percussion growing thicker as it pulses along. Somebody write some lyrics and give this to Earth Wind & Fire, or Spanglish Fly!  La Roza Una follows with vocal variations on a stately minor-key martial riff.

The title track begins with a moody syncopation and builds to a blaze fueled by a two-horn attack from Johnson’s clarinet and Buchbinder’s trumpet, growing funkier as it bounces along. La Roza Dos goes in the opposite direction from a funky waltz to a wary, intense anthem, Tollar’s microtonal vocals enhancing the uneasy atmosphere. Valentin gives Buchbinder a chance to work dynamic magic against Duran’s flickering piano and Johnson’s pensive tenor sax, the percussion section pushing the ensemble through long upward and downward waves.

Calliope, another slinky salsa groove, gives Johnson a launching pad for a killer Middle Eastern tenor solo, Duran’s solo leading them through a brief doublespeed romp as it winds out. The final track rises from brooding, spacious neoromantic atmospherics to the closest thing to a straight-up salsa tune here, Tollar’s insistent vocals working a neat counterpoint with the resonant twin horns, Occhipinti, Duran and then Gajic trading incisive licks. Tuneful, edgy cross-pollination doesn’t get any more memorably anthemic than this.

October 20, 2013 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Michel Camilo’s Mano a Mano – One of the Year’s Best

It wouldn’t be fair to let the year go by without mentioning Michel Camilo’s elegant, urbane, soulful Spanish Caribbean jazz trio album Mano a Mano: after all, our “best jazz albums” list is coming up and this will be on it. It’s an intimate performance, the Dominican pianist with his longtime bandmate Charles Flores on bass and Giovanni Hidalgo on congas. Camilo’s been an interesting player for a long time, a classical concert pianist with roots in Afro-Cuban music and equal virtuosity in the American jazz songbook. How he blends these genres here is just as emotionally impactful as it is cerebral – and subtle. In a lot of ways, it’s a clinic in restraint and making notes count, exemplified by a brightly straightforward cover of Trane’s Naima; the other cover here, Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder is a lot more syncretic, done as bachata jazz with Camilo bringing in a little Professor Longhair before Hidalgo exercises his own remarkable restraint on the smaller set of drums that Camilo talked him into using on this session to enhance the up-close ambience.

The opening track, Yes, coalesces gradually but matter-of-factly, Camilo’s spacious block chords mingling with Hidalgo’s insistent breaks. The real stunner here is Then and Now, a beautiful, intense, slow bolero featuring a plaintive bowed bass solo over the first verse, Camilo echoing Satie and playing major on minor for all it’s worth with an eerie glimmer. Camilo also gives the Cuban standard Alfonsina y El Mar a similarly intense, brooding treatment, winding out with a judiciously chromatic iciness. By contrast, the title track is a scurrying, cascading, Monty Alexander-ish romp with a nimbly pointillistic solo by Flores. There’s also You and Me, pop ballad with bite and a slinky Cuban groove; Rice and Beans, which welds Oscar Peterson purist bluesiness to a graceful Cuban dance vamp; and No Left Turn, which serves as sort of a reprise. Camilo covers an awful lot of ground here, from hypnotic salsa grooves to poignant melodicism, with a dash of knotty postbop improvisation and makes it all seem as if it was all meant to fit together in the first place.

December 4, 2011 Posted by | jazz, latin music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 7/29/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Friday’s album is #550:

Machito – Kenya

A landmark of latin big band jazz. Hard to believe, but this stuff was actually mainstream in 1957 when the album came out (one of Machito’s most popular albums was marketed as being recorded at the Catskills resort where he held an annual summer residency for years). On one hand, this doesn’t have the raw bite of his stuff from the 30s and 40s, but the songs and the charts are killer. All of these are originals save for percussionist Chano Pozo’s noir classic Tin Tin Deo. Lots of flavors here: the brisk, blazing guaguanco of Wild Jungle; the slinky, suspenseful Congo Mulence; the lush, majestic title track; the stop-and-start intenstiy of Oyeme; Holiday, with its surgically precise Cannonball Adderley solo; Cannonology, a sideways Charlie Parker tribute; the sinister-tinged Frenzy; proto-ska Conversation; bustling Minot Rama; hypnotically soulful Tururato, and Blues A La Machito, which is more Machito than blues. Here’s a random torrent via Hasta Luego Baby.

July 29, 2011 Posted by | jazz, latin music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment