Stormy Weather: 6 Latin Jazz Tracks For A Rainy Day

by chip on January 21, 2010

Warm rains and gentle breezes conjure images of soft ballad settings and smooth melodies in the jazz world; they seldom capture the fire and passion inherent in Latin Jazz. Lately, the winter weather has held more than a simple shower though – heavy storms have been attacking my world in many ways. Pounding sheets of rain have made my commute into work slow and treacherous. Dark clouds covered the sky, making my day dark, dismal, and overcast. Thunder and lightning lit up the darkness then sent rumbling waves of sound shooting through my house, scaring the dog and distracting my family. Throughout all the gloomy weather, all three of my kids and myself fell under nasty colds, keeping us home from school and work respectively, staying in bed days at a time. With all this activity brewing through my week, one might think my head would be anywhere but in the Latin Jazz world . . . but I just can’t help myself.

As the winter weather finally hit Northern California officially recently, I’ve dug into my Latin Jazz collection for a group of songs that represented my recent days. These tracks relate to rain, storms, wind, clouds, and thunder in one way or another, bringing the season and Latin Jazz into one harmonious collection. I have been under the weather lately, so my outline of the tracks will be a little more sparse than usual – I’ve been home ill this week, and I’ve spent more time in bed than at the computer. Still, I couldn’t help sharing this list of rainy day Latin Jazz tracks, hoping that this group of songs would brighten up the winter days for all of us. Track down all these songs; it’s a good collection of music that will surely make a great addition to your iPod – enjoy!

Lluvia Azul – Chapter Three: Viva Emiliano Zapata, Gato Barbieri
Saxophonist Gato Barbieri explores the blue rain on this track from his classic album Chapter Three: Viva Emiliano Zapata. Barbieri provides some great solo work on this recording, but the true beauty of the track lies in arranger Chico O’Farrill’s delicate pen. His thick voicings send tonal colors sailing over a dramatic introduction, creating a smooth transition into a cha cha cha groove. Barbieri’s sax screams over the rhythmic ostinato provided by the ensemble’s steady wind section, reinforcing the rhythm section’s propulsion. As Barbieri takes the lead with a distinctive improvisation, his personality moves into the forefront momentarily. He bounces back into a melodic lines, riding the arrangement through an Afro-Cuban 6/8 section, a return to cha cha cha, and a leap into a double time samba. O’Farrill writes around Barbieri’s strengths here, and the feel changes push the saxophonist into a ferocious improvisation. The combination of two great musical personalities bring excitement, passion, and style into this strong track.

Second Wind – Papa Mambo, The John Santos Quintet
John Santos’ Quintet captures the subtle sounds of a strong breeze on the Ray Vega composition “Second Wind” from the group’s first recording Papa Mambo. Saul Sierra’s understated bass line, coupled with soft chords from pianist Marcos Diaz, and sharp attacks from timbalero Orestes Vilato set the stage for a light melody. A driving montuno from Diaz pushes the groove forward into an energetic improvisation from flautist John Calloway, who winds through the changes with strong melodic construction. The wind picks up into a powerful gust with an aggressive solo from Vega. The trumpet player breathes some hard bop fire into the song, with twisting lines that dance around the chords with chromatic intensity. Diaz captures Vega’s momentum and races forward with an unstoppable rhythmic propulsion and a percussive flair. Diaz builds tension as the group flies into a masterful improvisation from Vilato, bringing the group into a perfect storm. Although the track’s title only references wind, the group’s passion captures the full throttle of a classic downpour with a vengeance.

Come Rain Or Come Shine – Impressions, Claudio Roditi
Here’s That Rainy Day – Walking with My Bass, Nilson Matta

The traditional jazz world holds the crown for classic rain titles, and two Brazilian musicians tap into those tunes with unique interpretations. Trumpet player Claudio Roditi applies his vast improvisatory skill to the memorable Arlen/Mercer tune “Come Rain Or Come Shine” on the album Impressions. Roditi places the song over an up-tempo bossa nova feel, putting a slightly different take on the standard swing tune. The melody benefits from the style’s rhythm drive, dancing over the rhythm section with a gentle lilt. Roditi displays a defined improvisatory presence on a boppish solo, running through quick lines with a fervent intensity. Saxophonist Idriss Boudrioua and pianist Dario Galante both take strongly invested solos as well, bringing the classic to life. Bassist Nilson Matta explores another standard ballad, “Here’s That Rainy Day,” once again through the eyes of an driving bossa nova on his album Walking with My Bass. Performed in a trio setting, the melody gets an understated treatment from pianist Helio Alves while the rhythm section floats beneath. Alves travels through several choruses, displaying his undying gift for melodic invention, steadily building into thicker textures of sound. Matta takes a turn at the changes as well, using his able technical facility to wrap quick runs around compelling melodic ideas. While the jazz world might take the cake on rain themed songs, these two Brazilian musicians show that Latin Jazz musicians easily brave the storm.

The Lord Of Thunder – The Orisha Suite, Michael Philip Mossman
Any good storm needs a heavy dose of thunder and lightning, so it makes perfect sense that a good list of weather intensive Latin Jazz songs should include a tribute to the Santeria deity of thunder, Chango. Trumpet player and arranger Michael Philip Mossman explores musical interpretation of several deities on his album The Orisha Suite, and he visits Chango on the track, “The Lord Of Thunder.” Right from the downbeat, Mossman captures the passion of the orisha with a driving bass and piano groove beneath an explosive hard bop melody. After the group navigates the angular rhythmic breaks throughout the melody, Mossman jumps right into a fiery solo, driven my a boppish intensity. Mossman plays off the dissonant edges of the harmony, utilizing his deep knowledge of clave to build tension. Tenor saxophonist Todd Williams runs long streams of quick notes through the texture, blending sharp edged licks into the mix for balance. Pianist Arturo O’Farrill announces his improvisation with a ferocious run that characterizes his impassioned solo, filled with dissonant tension and beautiful releases into the chord changes. A winding interlude from Mossman and Williams sets up quick solos from drummer Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez and conguero Ray Barretto, who light burning fires under the band. There’s a lot of power in a bolt of thunder and in Chango – a fact that Mossman represents fully on this track.

Lluvia, Viento Y Caña – Master Sessions, Vol. 1, Israel “Cachao” Lopez
Anything served as ample inspiration for the master of the descarga, Israel “Lopez” Cachao, who reflects the weather in the jam session “Lluvia, Viento Y Caño” from Master Sessions, Vol. 1. In reality, Cachao’s title probably refers to the use of a rainstick, wind instruments, a the woodwind reeds, but we’ll throw a double meaning on it here. A long sound from a rain stick sets the tone for the song, followed by a structured statement from the wind players. There’s an almost classical elegance to the written part for the wind players, as they travel through intertwining parts with grace and style. The legendary bassist gets the party started with an unaccompanied bass solo that serves as a transition into the groove, brining in the percussionists. The groove move forward with Cachao’s classic feel, grounded by the bassist’s stuttering line and Nelson Gonzalez’s steady tres montuno. As a coro repeats a short melodic figure, trombonist Jimmy Bosch fills the spaces with his rhythmic approach to improvisation. Bosch rides the groove with an assertive drive, hitting the clave from every direction and inspiring a wealth of interaction from the percussionists. Bosch’s momentum sends the group into spontaneous moña, framed by playful lines from saxophonist Justo Almario and trumpet player Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros. The group dances through the storm on this track, relishing in the joys of playing in the rain.

Check Out These Related Posts:
Latin Jazz Standards: 10 Versions of Manteca
8 Cal Tjader Albums To Kickstart Your Latin Jazz Record Collection
7 Unforgettable Latin Jazz Bass Solos
10 Latin Jazz Perspectives On Freddie Hubbard

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