Perennial Latin Jazz favorite Paquito D’Rivera continued his tradition of excellence in 2007 with outstanding playing and exciting new compositions on Funk Tango. D’Rivera explored Argentinean traditions more completely, tackling Astor Piazzolla’s “Revirado” as well as original compositions “Milonga 10,” “Funk Tango;” he even offered a tango-influenced version of “Caravan.” Of course, D’Rivera traveled through a variety of other Latin American traditions as well including rhythms from Brazil, Cuba, and Peru. His ability to navigate through numerous musical settings while creatively interpreting jazz harmonies always insures an exciting Latin Jazz experience. Above all, D’Rivera’s strong voice and personal approach to the music make him a distinctive voice unmatched in the modern Latin Jazz world.
Who Else Scored Well: Peter Brainin – Big Band Urban Folktales, Bobby Sanabria
Saxophonist Peter Brainin has long fueled the fire behind many Latin Jazz greats, ranging from Hilton Ruiz to Mongo Santamaria; his spot as a member of Bobby Sanabria’s big band brought him quite a bit of attention on the 2007 release Big Band Urban Folktales. As a section member, Brainin’s rich tone fills out the saxophone section completely, while his solo work adds informed jazz lines and rhythmically interesting swing. Brainin stayed busy during 2007 outside of Sanabria’s band – he could be heard live regularly in New York and also on Marlon Simon’s In Case You Missed It and Luis Bonilla’s Terminal Clarity. He remains an essential saxophone voice in New York’s traditional jazz and Latin Jazz scenes; he also has become a favorite with LJC readers during 2007!
As a member of the Nagual Spirits, trumpet player Michael Simon navigates his brother Marlon’s complex vision throughout the impressive 2007 release In Case You Missed It. Sharing trumpet duties with Alex Norris, Michael helps create the colorful sound that ranges from string arrangement of Santeria music to traditional Latin Jazz and creative original compositions. He shines on the wide scope of “Root Melody,” seeing eye to eye with his brother’s bold concept. His bright tone and sharp phrasing served as an important piece of this album, as LJC readers have attested through their votes.
Who Else Scored Well: Ray Vega – Papa Mambo, The John Santos Quintet
Trumpet Player Ray Vega compliments the core of The John Santos Quintet on several tracks of Papa Mambo, adding a large dose of personality and fire. Vega has graced recordings from a variety of well-known Latin Jazz artists such as Tito Puente, Mario Bauza, Ray Barretto, and more, giving him extensive insights into the history and practice of Latin Jazz. While he bases his work around his New York home, he plays like an age-old veteran of the Bay Area scene, playing closely against Santos and his group. Vega’s insightful musical connection and fearless playing sound as if he’s played with Santos consistently for years, securing a memorable 2007 performance.
Trombonist and Euphonium player Rafi Malkiel built upon his years of experience as a sideman in Latin Jazz to create a strong 2007 release My Island. His trombone skill shined through the album, exposing a unique voice with a rhythmic intensity and passionate drive. Malkiel’s choice of repertoire allowed him to explore Latin rhythmic traditions from Cuba, Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Brazil, but also dive into jazz standards such as “Stardust” and “Nature Boy.” The recording featured impressive Latin Jazz performances from bassist Andy Gonzalez, clarinetist Anat Cohen, and percussionist Anthony Carrillo, among others, but Malkiel’s trombone work captured the ears of LJC readers as a 2007 highlight.
Who Else Scored Well: Chris Washburne – Big Band Urban Folktales, Bobby Sanabria
Longtime veteran of the New York Latin Jazz scene, trombonist Chris Washburne has spent years supporting important artists and leading his own groups. A frequent collaborator with Sanabria, Washburne contributed both original compositions and arrangements to Big Band Urban Folktales as well as his distinctive trombone playing. Washburne’s deep understanding of Cuban rhythms help shape his phrasing, which always swings just as hard any accompanying rhythm section. His jazz knowledge consistently guides his instincts, leading him to create melodically interesting lines. Washburne has spent many years immersed in Latin Jazz, and his strong trombone voice continues to lead the style into the future.
Come back tomorrow for more results – we’ll be looking at award winners in the piano and bass categories. See you then!