A Cuban Tribute to Charlie Parker
Latin Jazz emerged as a major piece of the United States jazz scene during the 1940s, as Cuban rhythms found a natural soul mate in the complex harmonies and melodic language of bebop. Key figures from the bebop scene such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Flip Phillips collaborated with Cuban visionaries such as Machito and Chano Pozo. They coined the term Cubop and looked forward to a long and fruitful relationship. Initially it seemed like a match made in heaven, but as times changed, so did Latin Jazz. Traditional jazz explored a variety of new directions such as modal playing, free jazz, and fusion. Latin music exploded in the popular music market as salsa became the driving force behind dance music in the 1960s and 1970s. The musicians that straddled jazz and Latin music traveled these new directions as well, altering the fundamental shape of Latin Jazz. The bebop influence in Latin Jazz never disappeared, but it certainly didn’t continue as the music’s driving force. Trumpet player Steve Gluzband revisits this powerful combination with his band Hot House on A Cuban Tribute to Charlie Parker, a creative exploration of the marriage between bebop and Cuban rhythms.
Creative Arrangements of Parker Compositions
Gluzband creatively arranges several Parker compositions into natural combinations of bebop and Cuban rhythms. The rhythm section charges into “Red Cross” with an assertive montuno before the wind players jump into the catchy melody. Flautist Itai Kriss cleverly winds through the familiar set of rhythm changes, leading into an improvisation from pianist Art Bailey, who emphasizes the chord progression’s bebop flavor. Tresero Pablo Moya combines Cuban rhythmic ideas into his statement before the band moves into high gear behind an energetic solo from Gluzband. A tipico son feel opens “Quasimodo” before the melody kicks the song into a bebop mode. Moya creates an intriguing extended statement that combines the best of Cuban polyrhythmic ideas with jazz tinged melodic lines. Building from the momentum created by Moya’s solo, the wind players raise the dynamic with a strong moña before the tipico feel returns for the melody. Bailey lays down a simple but intoxicatingly funky groove over a cha cha cha, leading into the famous melody on “Little Suede Shoes.” Moya leans towards jazz phrasing with his improvisation, never loosing sight of the music’s rhythmic foundation. Gluzband takes his time developing his ideas, playing off the song’s addictive groove until he stretches into longer ideas. Parker’s compositions fit perfectly into the group’s traditional Cuban setting, finding a lively home among the Latin Jazz arrangements.
Drawing Upon the American Songbook
Gluzband also draws upon several pieces from the American songbook, reflecting Parker’s use of those compositions during his career. Gluzband injects a coy and mysterious shape to the melody on Cole Porter’s “My Heart Belongs To Daddy,” which gets reinforced with a strong minor mode in the rhythm section. He builds upon this initial feel, starting with a soft approach before growing into a long stream of notes and rhythmic syncopation. Bailey finds inspiration in the rhythmic foundation, building tension through offset rhythms and repeated ideas before the band explodes into a powerful moña. A lush arrangement of horns and strings over a bolero allows Gluzband to play a short introduction to the standard “Everything Happens To Me.” Vocalist Chico Alvarez provides the remorseful lyrics with a New York swagger that adds a new strength to the piece. Gluzband adds a short but sensitive solo before Alvarez returns, showing full ownership over the song. Kriss interprets the melody over bata drums on Porter’s “I Love Paris,” with Gluzband joining for the second reading. Bailey enthusiastically explores the chord changes with a series of creative ideas before Kriss develops an interesting improvisation with rhythmic embellishments. The muted tone of Gluzband’s trumpet provides an interesting contrast to the aggressive feel, as he spins long quick lines of notes. These pieces show an appreciation for a repertoire that Parker visited frequently and the inventive arrangements create a connection between the songs and Latin music.
Contributions from Parker’s Peers and Hot House Members
Songs from both the band and Parker’s peers round out the album, adding some diversity to the selections. A bold brass sound adds an extra push to the elegant danzon structure behind the melody on Gluzband’s “N’est-Ce Pas?” After a transition into son montuno, Bailey takes a captivating solo that includes tipico elements, syncopated rhythms, and references to montunos. Gluzband assertively jumps into the fold, indulging in the up-beat feel with energetic lines. Moya, Bailey, and bassist Jorge Bringas introduce a rhythmic vamp before jumping into the interesting melody on Tadd Dameron’s “Hot House.” Kriss impressively spins virtuosic lines through the changes, until trombonist Marshall Gilkes creates a strong statement. Gluzband inspires enthusiastic responses from the rhythm section with his improvisation until the band returns to the original vamp for a strong solo from percussionist Gabriel “Chinchilita” Machado. Bailey captures the bebop sound with a twisting melody and rapidly moving harmonies on “Five Sisters” as the rhythm section burns through an up-tempo son montuno. He takes full advantage of the song’s interesting chord changes with rapid lines full of interesting shapes, until Gluzband enters with a melodic muted trumpet solo. Kriss applies a bebop mentality to the piece with flying streams of notes, leading into a short but engaging unaccompanied solo from Machado. Bringas establishes a repeating bass pattern, leading into the familiar melody on Dizzy Gillespie’s classic “A Night In Tunisia.” Gluzband displays a thorough study of the standard with a constant stream of ideas until Moya provides a distinct contrast with rhythmically twisted ideas and carefully developed phrases. Kriss attacks the song with a ferocious intensity, followed by an impressive display of technique and creativity from Bringas. These songs allow the group to explore the world that existed around Parker, as well as reflect upon the bebop period.
A Strong Argument For The Continued Marriage Between Bebop and Cuban Rhythms
Hot House finds the natural connection between bebop and Cuban rhythms on A Cuban Tribute to Charlie Parker in an album that both fondly remembers the bebop innovator and looks ahead to future possibilities. The recording includes some impressive tracks that draw their strength and structure from their outstanding arrangements. The use of authentic Cuban settings, including danzon, rumba guaguanco, and changüí, moves this album beyond Cubop’s traditional mix of big band mambo and complex harmonies. At the same time, the performers approach the music from a deeply rooted bebop aesthetic. From Gluzband’s clever melodic twists to Kriss’ flights of virtuosic flurry, the improvisations capture the soul of the bebop language. Moya emerges as an engaging jazz soloist that brings the best of the instrument’s Cuban heritage together with jazz phrasing. The album leaves an impression that Cubop is not a thing of the past, rather an approach to be explored more fully. Hot House makes a strong argument for a long marriage between bebop and Cuban rhythms on A Cuban Tribute to Charlie Parker, hopefully setting the stage for future projects focusing on this happy combination.
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