The Revisiting series features albums from the past that played a significant role in Latin Jazz history. The purpose of this series is to introduce new Latin Jazz listeners to important albums and look back at these albums in historical perspective. Each entry will jump to a different point in Latin Jazz history – this week we jump back into 1974.
Sometimes the best albums to revisit are the ones that were completely missed the first time around. The amount of music released every year reaches staggering numbers – even within a small market like Latin Jazz. One person cannot actually hear every album, even all the good ones; so a great deal of quality music escapes our ears. Consider this fact historically – people have created massive numbers of Latin Jazz recordings for years. If you weren’t actively involved in the music during the 1960s and 1970s, finding important albums from this era takes a good deal of research. There were a quite a few creative musicians actively exploring and pushing the music, which resulted in a lot of recordings. The musicians that maintained their careers into the present day left a trail, making it much easier to link them to “classics.” Other musicians’ careers steered them away from the legendary status, although their output reflected similar mastery of the art form. One of these “missed” gems was Paunetto’s Point by Bobby Vince Paunetto.
Born in 1944 and raised in the Bronx section of New York, Paunetto showed an early interest in music. His primary point of entry into Latin music occurred in 1958, when he saw Cal Tjader perform with pianist Vince Guaraldi and conguero Mongo Santamaria. Paunetto got to meet Tjader, who became a mentor for the young musician. In 1961, Tjader wrote and recorded a song for Paunetto entitled Paunetto’s Point, which he later recorded for Verve. Inspired to become a professional musician, Paunetto began studies at the Berklee School of Music in 1969 where he studied vibraphone with Gary Burton among others. Yet, his primary concentration would be composition, and he demonstrated these skills prevalently on his recordings. Paunetto graduated from Berklee in 1973 and began his musical career in New York. He quickly established Pathfinder Records and organized the label’s first recording, Paunetto’s Point.
This recording displays Paunetto’s unique compositional voice, his strength as an improviser, and his modernly creative approach to Latin Jazz. A colorful introduction to “Brother Will” features long tones from Billy Drewes’ soprano saxophone, beautifully harmonized against the ensemble. Paunetto recalls Tjader on the lush melody, leading into an insightful statement by saxophonist Todd Anderson. A rhythmic bass clarinet line propels the Cha Cha Cha “Sognord” into searching solos from Anderson and Drewes. A driving mozambique rhythm fuels “Paunetto’s Point 2,” contrasted by a string section providing the harmony. The strings hold haunting chords behind Drewes and baritone sax player Ronnie Cuber, until they give way for some masterful quinto work from Jerry Gonzalez. Constant shekeres balance the drum kit on “Osiris,” which contains some sensitive textural writing on the melody. Trombonist Ed Byrne takes a rhythmically inventive solo, followed by an aggressive statement from Paunetto, and a hypnotically intriguing improvisation from bassist Andy Gonzalez. These tracks represent modern jazz writing at its finest, vital improvising from several of New York’s important musicians, and unexpected applications of Latin rhythms.
Paunetto’s Point made a powerful artistic statement that met avid support from the Latin Jazz community, yet the recording remained an insider’s favorite. Paunetto recorded Commit To Memory in 1976, another bold masterpiece enthusiastically welcomed from musician circles. The next year, Paunetto was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, which drastically slowed his music career. His output eventually came to a halt, as medical concerns became his primary concern. In the mid-1990s, Paunetto reformed Pathfinder Records as R.S.V.P. Jazz Records and formed his new Commit To Memory Band featuring New York heavies such as bassist Mike Richmond and pianist Bill O’Connell. He released Composer in Public in 1998, a dip into contemporary rhythms and sound; and then in 2001 he unveiled the largely straight-ahead recording Reconstituted. In the past couple of years, Paunetto’s two releases from the 1970s have been remastered and released on CD, exposing a new generation to some complex and gorgeous music. With this resurgence in visibility, Paunetto’s Point needs to take its place among the Latin Jazz “classics” from the 1970s, with the hopes that it won’t be missed again.