by: Hobert Taylor
Arturo O'Farrill - Cuba: The Conversation Continues - (Motema Records)
In a recent interview with KUCI, composer/pianist Arturo O'Farrill talked about music and performance styles mirroring their communities of origin. In describing the cultural differences between a society that has competition and isolation as central values (the United States), "an Amazon.com society where we order in food, even sex", and a culture of relentless cultural interaction like many African cultures or Cuba, "You can't walk out the door without be involved in life in Cuba, it comes right up to you," O'Farrill pointed out that the same difference in dynamics shows up in the music. Rather than being "star" and solo based like much of American jazz, the music of Africa and Cuba is supremely collaborative. "When you have 16 drummers, they have to listen to each other."
On this two CD release recorded ironically at the same time normalized relations were announced between the US and Cuba, nine composers are represented. Some are Cuban, some American, some Cuban American. This says nothing about the styles of music interwoven throughout from DJ Logic's hip hop to European classicism, from deep modal mysticism to African tribal. What unifies this work is the intense spirit of sharing and community in the performances. Five Stars.
Yoron Israel - This Moment - (Ronja music)
Drummer Israel has a deft and melodic touch that sings. Leading a four piece, bass, sax, and piano in poppy jazz (four Stevie Wonder covers), there is something charming and intimate in these tunes that make them interesting enough. He has a fine drum solo composition, "Glory", and my favorite cut is Wonder's "Contusion".
Arturo Sandoval - Live at Yoshi's - (Alfi Records)
Trumpeter Sandoval was a protege of Dizzy Gillespie. Originally from Cuba, Sandoval often celebrates the fusion of be-bop, straight ahead, and Cuban jazz championed by Diz. On his latest release, Sandoval starts out in a jaunty New Orleans second line, performs a Bee-bop Medley framed by synths and re-verb that is a little too syrupy for me, but he takes off with "El Manisero" ("Bitches Brew" fusion), gets pretty with "Joy Spring" and "Surena", and gets electronica out there with abstract vocals morphing into Cuban chants on "Seven Steps to Heaven" (my favorite cut).