Even though Latin Jazz and salsa have different sets of musical aesthetics, they’re close cousins, and any musician exploring Afro-Cuban Jazz should build a familiarity with salsa. For some musicians, salsa will be an entry point into Latin Jazz, while others may discover salsa while trying to integrate Afro-Cuban structures into their jazz playing. However they get there, it’s important that all these musicians spend time really ingesting the intricacies of salsa and committing themselves to performance. There’s a physical connection to the music’s rhythmic structure that comes from playing dance music which can be applied to a deeper understanding of improvising. A Latin Jazz musician needs an intimate connection to the clave, something that they’re going to get from playing – and hopefully dancing to – salsa. After spending years with salsa, some may put it aside in favor of a strictly jazz informed approach, but the more dedicated musicians will keep the music in their repertoire. They’ll feel the benefits too – a repertoire that places Latin Jazz alongside salsa keeps a musician on their toes and invites the audience to be involved through dancing. Those musicians that dig deeply into salsa will also discover the creative spark and fascinating evolution that has been an essential part of the music’s history, helping them integrate even more insight into their Latin Jazz work. Trombonist Rick Davies shows a deep understanding of salsa and an innate ability to apply those aesthetics to Latin Jazz on the energetic and highly danceable release Salsa Norteña.
Showing Jazz Chops & Rhythmic Knowledge On Latin Jazz Tunes
Davies dedicates half of the album to Latin Jazz repertoire, showcasing his group’s jazz chops and rhythmic knowledge. An up-tempo vamp from bassist John Rivers and pianist Tom Cleary sets up a ferocious groove on the “Campamento De Rumba” that serves as a foundation for an understated but memorable melody. Drummer Jonathan Maldonado implies a funky edge behind Davies’ solo, playing upon the trombonist’s energy, and giving a boost to a clever statement from saxophonist Alex Stewart. Guest trumpet player Ray Vega breathes some hard bop fire into a exciting flurry of ideas before handing things to Cleary, who flows with a lyrical touch through the band’s momentum. The wind players move through a twisting melody full of angular rhythmic turns on “Bembé Swing,” while the rhythm section lies down a charging six/eight groove. Davies and Stewart take their time developing vast ideas as they stretch through the open harmonic structure. Cleary cleverly combines strong melodic ideas and rhythmic tension to build a memorable solo before falling back into the main groove while the percussionists improvise. An upbeat montuno from Cleary sets the stage for an all-out descarga on “Vega Para Ti,” leading into a rhythmic melody from the wind players. Stewart grabs the band’s drive and tears through an energetic solo until Vega slides around the groove with a series of jazz influenced lines. Davies and Cleary both stretch out with solos full of rhythmic vitality, followed by a ferocious percussion attack from Maldonado. Rivers and Cleary establish an interesting groove over a quietly intense son montuno groove on “Son, Son, Son,” which come alive with a engaging and jazz tinged melody from the wind players. Davies plays around the main theme before exploding into a burst of creative energy, which flows freely into inspired statements from Stewart and Cleary. The band comes down to a whisper behind Rivers, whose improvised display of melodic ingenuity and rhythmic command gives way to a rising tide of percussive mastery in a solo from conguero Neville “Pichi” Ainsley. These tracks find Davies and his band embracing improvisation deeply while weaving their spontaneous skills around a broad familiarity with Afro-Cuban rhythms.
Heading Straight For The Dance Floor With Salsa Tracks
The band changes gears on several tunes, bringing a salsa energy to Davies’ compositions that is both danceable and entertaining. Vocalist Jorge “Papo” Ross provides a strong introduction to “Baile De Amor” over a sparse setting, until the band kicks into high gear so that he can stretch out with some improvised pregones. A strutting vamp from bassist Edward Maldonado and pianist Kuki Carbucia explodes into a powerful horn mambo, making way for an exciting conga solo from Ainsley. Davies tears through an aggressive trombone solo filled with percussive edges, that sends the band storming into a series of improvised statements from Ross. An assertive mambo from Carbucia sends the band charging into Ross’ lead vocal on “El Hombre De Panama,” a song dedicated to salsa star Ruben Blades. Davies, Stewart, and trumpet player Eduardo Sanchez trade jazz tinged phrases between a repeated coros, setting up a flurry of smartly constructed pregones from Ross. A dynamic rhythm section breaks leads into an unassuming solo from Carbucia that climaxes into a mambo with a funky groove and a high energy improvisation from Davies. After a strong horn introduction, Ross winds his way through a twisting melody on “Requiem Por Un Amigo,” before leaping enthusiastically into an attention grabbing series of pregones. Maldonado and Carbucia fall into a driving groove behind the horns, setting the stage for a tasteful solo from timbalero and drummer Jonathan Maldonado that resonates with traditional phrases and creative energy. Davies pushes the band into a addicitively powerful momentum, as his ferocious trombone solo rides a horn mambo into a closing series of pregones from Ross. A dramatic introduction from Davies segues into a heartfelt vocal from Ross on “Lady K,” a song that comes alive due to a tightly constructed and smart arrangement. Ross leaps onto alto sax and takes full advantage of the sparse bolero setting, winding his breathy tone and jazz inspired ideas through colorful changes. Davies shows his lyrical side with a gorgeous solo filled with fantastic idea development that transitions into a closing vocal from Ross. Davies aims straight for the dance floor with his salsa repertoire, providing some room along the way for a jazz influence that makes for an engaging set of music
An Inspired Collection Of Tracks And Outstanding Performances
Davies delivers a strong collection of inspired tracks on Salsa Norteña, that embrace both salsa and Latin Jazz. There’s an apparent respect for the individual traditions from Davies and his group that reflects extensive study and time spent performing in each context. At the same time, there’s no doubt that Davies and his band see the connection points between the two styles and take the time to play upon the strong relationship. As a composer, Davies constructs some memorable pieces, that walk the line between simplicity and complexity as dictated by the traditions of each style. His band grabs onto Davies’ music with a committed fervor, delivering a performance that overflows with musicality and energy. The results are a highly charged set of music filled with insightful playing that would work for an listening audience and dance floor alike. Inspired solo work from Davies provides a core connection between all the tracks, infusing the music with a distinct and assertive voice. Vega’s guest spot on the recording injects a bop flavor that serves the Latin Jazz tracks well, and Ross’ vocals guide the salsa tunes with a undeniable charisma. Davies shows us the importance of both Latin Jazz and salsa with outstanding performances throughout Salsa Norteña, leaving us with a collection of music that will get us thinking, moving, and appreciating the lively spirit of both styles.
1. Baile De Amor – (Rick Davies & Fernando Iturburu)
2. Campamento De Rumba – (Rick Davies)
3. El Hombre De Panama – (Rick Davies & Fernando Iturburu)
4. Bembé Swing – (Rick Davies)
5. Requiem Por Un Amigo – (Rick Davies & Fernando Iturburu)
6. Vega Para Ti – (Rick Davies)
7. Lady K – (Rick Davies, Fernando Iturburu, & Jorge “Papo” Ross)
8. Son, Son, Son – (Rick Davies)
Rick Davies – trombone; Jorge “Papo” Ross – lead vocals (1, 3, 5, 7) & alto saxophone (7); Alex Stewart – tenor saxophone (2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8); Eduardo Sanchez – trumpet (1, 3, 5, 7); Ray Vega – trumpet (2, 4, 6, 8); Kuki Carbucia – piano (1, 3, 5, 7); Tom Cleary – piano (2, 4, 6, 8); Edward Maldonado – bass (1, 3, 5, 7); John Rivers – bass (2, 4, 6, 8); Neville “Pichi” Ainsley – congas; Jonathan Maldonado – drums; Rosa Ramirez – coro (1, 3, 5, 7); Alejandro Torrens - coro (1, 3, 5, 7); Jorge “Papo” Ross - coro (1, 3, 5, 7)
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