When a Latin Jazz album arrives from Europe it seems like a unique surprise, but in reality, there’s a lot of potential rumbling through the European Latin Jazz scene. We often consider Latin Jazz an American phenomenon that evolved through an exchange between New York and the Caribbean, but that’s not the complete story. It’s important to remember that Cuba, the greater Caribbean, and South America have also engaged Europe in an active exchange over the past fifty years. In many ways, that exchange has been healthier; while the U.S. Trade embargo on Cuba has hampered the flow of artistic ideas into North America, the movement to the East has moved quite steadily. Improvisation has long been a part of European music, and over the course of several decades, a distinctly European approach to jazz has evolved. Consider a more active support of jazz and the arts from the European community, and all the factors are in place for a thriving Latin Jazz scene. Our attention should actually be more finely tuned into the groups performing Latin Jazz in Europe – without a doubt, we will be rewarded with an exhilarating listening experience. Latineo, a quartet based in Holland, provides that European Latin Jazz thrill ride on Two Ways with a head spinning set of high-energy jazz drenched in Caribbean traditions.
An Appreciation For Afro-Cuban Styles And A Distinct Personality
The group features a set of original compositions from pianist March Bischoff that show a solid appreciation for Afro-Cuban styles and a distinct personality. A frenetic montuno sends the rhythm section charging into a high-speed son montuno on “Choices,” which gives way to a shared melody from pianist Marc Bischoff and saxophonist Efraim Trujillo. Bischoff blazes into a fiery improvisation that smartly brings together running jazz lines and bits of montunos, giving way to Trujillo’s wisely constructed statement, anchoring by his cutting soprano sax tone. A ferocious montuno from Bischoff opens the door to an explosive solo from conguero José “Pepe” Espinosa that sends the band into an exciting close. Bischoff carefully places a rhythmic vamp around an eleven beat cycle on “Framework,” leading into the pianist’s understated melody. Playful lines wind through the odd time signature as Bischoff cleverly increases the rhythmic tension, building into an intriguing statement. The rhythm section falls into a staggering vamp, providing an opportunity for Espinosa and drummer Mark de Jong to trade ideas within the unique rhythmic structure. Bassist Yerman Aponte lays down a funky slap line that leads into a contemporary 6/8 groove on “Catch You Later,” that bubbles with intertwined melodic phrases. Bischoff bounces around the percolating groove with a focused intensity that grows into a furious collection of runs and rhythmic ideas. The pianist takes the song to another level with a pounding montuno that inspires a powerful display of conga mastery from Espinosa. A calm but steady vamp sets the foundation for a churning bolero on “Viejo Y Añejado,” leading into a delicate melody from Bischoff. The pianist balances his improvisation with a thoughtful eye to melodic construction and an aggressive rhythmic approach. Aponte follows with a short improvisation that works through the lush changes with an insightful sense of melodic construction. Bischoff’s compositions showcase the group at their best and reveal experienced musicians with an ability to improvise proficiently around jazz and Cuban contexts.
Cleverly Twisting Jazz Compositions Around Caribbean Traditions
The group cleverly twists several jazz compositions around Caribbean traditions, keeping a steady eye on both lineages. A head spinning combination of montuno virtuosity and syncopated drum breaks sends the group into a driving bomba rhythm behind Lee Morgan’s “Mr. Kenyatta.” Bischoff plays off the main vamp’s inherent energy, creating a sizzling brew of syncopated tension that explodes into an array of powerful ideas. Aponte winds an intoxicating mixture of melodic invention over the changes, leading into an aggressive improvisation from Espinosa that reflects the unstoppable intensity of Bischoff’s timba montuno. Santeria vocals float over lush chords and percussion colors before the group falls into a subdued Afro-Cuban 6/8 rhythm behind the classic melody of John Coltrane’s “Ahi Naima.” Bischoff stretches freely over the song, wisely placing rich harmonic variations over the familiar chords and referencing a song for Yemaya. The band pairs down to a percussion duo, opening into a beautiful conversation between Espinosa and de Jong that climaxes dramatically into a timba fueled conclusion. A slowly percolating rumba leads into a shared melody between Bischoff and Aponte on Giraldo Piloto’s “Café Casino” until Trujillo leads the band into a funky variation on the groove. The rhythm section leaps into a timba-fied foundation behind Trujillo who lays on the soul with a blues drenched rhythmic improvisation. Bischoff provides an addictively catchy and syncopated montuno that allows de Jong to cut loose in an unrestrained display of joyful and skilled percussive exploration. An edgy synthesizer groove establishes a distinctly different approach on Horace Silver’s “Silver’s Serenade” before Bischoff provides the familiar melody. Aponte sends long melodic lines twisting through the thick synth textures, cutting into the texture with combination of bopish ideas and linear lines. Bischoff utilizes the flexible nature of his instrument’s sound to build from an understated collection of jazz lines into an edgy sea of rapid notes and rhythmic attacks. These tracks find the group respectfully blending the best of two artistic aesthetics and producing inspired takes on classic compositions.
Some Serious Latin Jazz Across The Atlantic
Latineo makes a defined statement on Two Ways with an immensely smart Latin Jazz sound that demands full attention. With every passing note on the album, the band members demonstrate an intimacy with both jazz and Caribbean traditions that allow them to express themselves with a furious intensity. Bischoff’s writing undeniably demonstrates this fact, alternately bringing traditional elements and creative explorations to the forefront. The group’s arrangements of jazz standards move beyond the simple placement of Cuban rhythms beneath familiar chord changes; instead Latineo finds clever meeting points between jazz and Cuban culture. The inclusion of Piloto’s “Café Casino” recognizes the fact that Cuba has produced generations of strong jazz musicians and a number of important compositions. Espinosa, de Jong, and Aponte groove with a tight solidarity that reflects the best elements of modern Latin Jazz. From folkloric rumba to hard-edged timba, the three musicians provide an unwavering and interactive foundation that contributes an ebullient spirit to the recording. Bischoff displays a powerful command over harmony, melody, and rhythmic structures with his playing, spinning potent improvised statements and sending the group into a frenzy with high-octane montunos. Latineo delivers an exciting set of powerful Latin Jazz full of depth and substance on Two Ways, sending a wake-up call to those of us keeping our eyes on the stateside scene – there’s some serious jazz con clave across the Atlantic.
1. Choices (Marc Bischoff)
2. Framework (Marc Bischoff)
3. Café Casino (Giraldo Piloto)
4. Ahi Naima (John Coltrane)
5. Silver’s Serenade (Horace Silver)
6. Con La Clave Si, Sin La Clave No (Mark De Jong)
7. Catch You Later (Marc Bischoff)
8. Viejo Y Añejado (Marc Bischoff)
9. Mr. Kenyatta (Lee Morgan)
Marc Bischoff – piano; Yerman Aponte – bass; José ‘Pete’ Espinosa – percussion; Mark de Jong – drums; Efraim Trujillo – soprano and tenor saxophones (tracks 1 & 3)
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