con clave

If you were bold enough to brave the pelting ice and hail in Manhattan last weekend, Greenwich Village was alive with Latin jazz. You needed only face the elements for a few blocks. Over at Sweet Rhythm on Seventh Avenue South was conga master and flugelhorn player Jerry Gonzalez and his Fort Apache band. The 1989 Gonzalez album, "Rumba Para Monk" (Sunnyside) reinforced two truths: Iconic jazz tunes (in this case, Thelonious Monk's) blend well with Afro Cuban rhythms; and New York musicians of Puerto Rican descent helped shape Latin jazz's sound. Mr. Gonzalez, who alternately plays congas and trumpet, projects equal parts rhythmic fire and somber lyricism. His Fort Apache band includes his brother Andy, the best Latin bassist since octogenarian Israel "Cachao" López.
Gonzalez, who moved to Madrid a few years ago, sounds energetic and inventive as ever, still conjuring up the most earthy mystery on his drums, still channeling the mute-into microphone horn sound of late-Miles without mimicry, still honinig in on the Afro-Caribbean heart beating beneath tunes such as Thelonious Monk's "Bemsha Swing."
At Sweet Rhythm, Gonzalez didn't have his "A" band -- pianist Larry Willis was replaced by Zaccai Curtis, Andy Gonzalez by bassist Junior Terry, and drummer Steve Berrios by Victor Jones; all were more than able substitutions, so it hardly mattered that the lineup had changed, the room was mostly empty, or the weather abysmal, so hot was Gonzalez's fury and so deep his focus.

Less than two blocks east, at the Blue Note, a tight all-star ensemble led by trombonist Conrad Herwig were stirring up the latest in Herwig's "Latin Side of..." cookbook, this time with Wayne Shorter as focus. (Herwig's series has already yielded two fine CDs, one of Latinized Coltrane tunes for Astor Place Records, another of Miles Davis tunes, for Half Note; this gig was being recorded for eventual Half Note release.) Trumpeter Brian Lynch played tart and precise accents, baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber nearly stole the show with his heartfelt solos and anchor-steady contrapuntal lines, and pianist Eddie Palmieri (in whose employ Lynch and Herwig have earned their Latin-jazz stripes), guesting for half the set, lent star power and cohesion to the project. Urged on by a full house and by the subtle intricacies of Shorter's oeuvre, the group fired up quick and shifted gears ably, like a well-tuned engine. However, their tipico approach tamed some of Shorter's more wild-eyed and subtle-hued compositional ideas. And the style exemplified by Palmieri, brilliant as it is, was not particularly well-suited for Shorter's odd chord choices. The Latin side of Shorter is in fact better evidenced on Jerry Gonzalez's 2005 CD, "Rumba Buhaina" (Random Chance).

Yet all of this attests at least in part to the primacy and resilience of Latin jazz in New York, an issue that may have been in some doubt due to the news that Jazz at Lincoln Center had discontinued its support of the Afro Latin Orchestra directed by Arturo O'Farrill. (The matter was given only a brief aside in a recent NY Times piece on the upcoming Jazz at Lincoln Center season.) Through his continuation of the Chico O'Farrill Orchestra at Birdland and especially through his outstanding work with the Lincoln Center orchestra, Arturo O'Farrill has extended both a personal and a communal legacy with elegance, precision, and enormous audience appeal. (Here's a piece I did for The Village Voice on the launch of the Afro Latin Orchestra, and on O'Farrill's first trip to Cuba a few years ago.)

Rest assured: The Afro Latin Orchestra, under the direction of Arturo O'Farrill will live on. Beginning this fall, the orchestra will begin a series of dates at Symphony Space in Manhattan, and will continue its touring dates, O'Farrill tells me. He is also forming a new nonprofit organization to maintain the orchestra and to initiate education programs and community outreach.

More power to him. And long live this ensemble.

March 25, 2007 11:03 AM | | Comments (0)


Leave a comment


Evan Christopher Django à la Créole (Lejazzetal) 

Clarinetist Evan Christopher, a California native, moved to New Orleans in 1994. In his frequent duets with Tom McDermott, and as a standout member of trumpeter Irvin Mayfield's New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, his erudite and personalized approach to traditional jazz commands attention.

Dr. Michael White Blue Crescent (Basin Street) 

Long before the floods that devastated his city, clarinetist Michael White wrestled with the challenge of preserving New Orleans traditional jazz without embalming it. He sought to write tunes built on time-honored local forms that spoke to the here-and-now. But Dr. White struggled to compose anything at all during the past three years--until late 2007, when original music began pouring forth.

Dee Dee Bridgewater
Red Earth: A Malian Journey (DDB Records/Emarcy/Universal) Despite her place in the top rank of American jazz vocalists and her crossover success, Dee Dee Bridgewater has often felt displaced. "I'm always trying to fit in somewhere," she once told me. This new disc, which finds Ms. Bridgewater and her band in collaboration with a cast of Malian musicians and singers, is no further pose:
David Murray Black Saint Quartet featuring Cassandra Wilson Sacred Ground (Justin Time) 
Long among the strongest, most adventurous reedmen in jazz,
Joe Zawinul Brown Street (Heads Up) 
The list of great Viennese composers must include Zawinul--same for the honor roll of jazz innovators.
more listengood


About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by ListenGood published on March 25, 2007 11:03 AM.

dirty four-letter words. was the previous entry in this blog.

unnatural disasters is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

AJ Ads

AJ Blogs

AJBlogCentral | rss

About Last Night
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Artful Manager
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
blog riley
rock culture approximately
critical difference
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dog Days
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
Life's a Pitch
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
Mind the Gap
No genre is the new genre
Performance Monkey
David Jays on theatre and dance
Plain English
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Real Clear Arts
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
Rockwell Matters
John Rockwell on the arts
Straight Up |
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude

Foot in Mouth
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Seeing Things
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...

Jazz Beyond Jazz
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...

Out There
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Serious Popcorn
Martha Bayles on Film...

classical music
Creative Destruction
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
The Future of Classical Music?
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
On the Record
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Slipped Disc
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds

Jerome Weeks on Books
Quick Study
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera

Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
lies like truth
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world

Aesthetic Grounds
Public Art, Public Space
Another Bouncing Ball
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Modern Art Notes
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.