Review written by: Raul da Gama
Few musicians can make a piece of pipe, a mere couple of feet long, sound as sensuous as Carlos Jimenez. On Mambo Dulcet/Red Tailed Hawk there is ample evidence to show that Jimenez does not so much as play the flute as he caresses its keys. In his hands that instrument would appear to be a woman’s body, which Jimenez strokes. His fingers appear to trace the curves of her body, stopping every once and awhile to emphasis a particularly beautiful part; to discover a nook or a cranny. Then, with hot breath the musician becomes a shaman—a magician—who exhales slowly through this wondrous companion at his lips, singing notes that he hears deep within his soul.
There are moments like this throughout the album. The ones on “Tanto Rogarte” and “My One & Only Love” are truly outstanding. Here Jimenez awakens the sound of the flute as if he were a bird. First he flutters his wings, then flexes them and then takes flight. Once airborne, the musical bird soars and swoops high and low; he would tumble occasionally and then rise up again rapidly, rushing to catch a thermal and seeming to fly on a dazzling arpeggio. The flight of the flute is anything but predictable. Like that mythical bird, Jimenez leaps and flies in lines that swing in wide parabolas, as if ascending a stairway to heaven. Always he pauses for breath and then surprisingly he will sing in a clear, resonant tenor as well, his voice rising and falling like the bird. Jimenez’s diction is flawless and he compensates for the natural flaws by bending and twisting notes in gentle quarter tones.
Carlos Jimenez has surrounded himself with a group of fine musicians. Every one of these instrumentalists play with great empathy. But as is the case in so many ensembles the leader finds his sweet spot; another musician onto whom most of the major ideas of the music are beamed; to bounce off and to challenge him or her to respond and take the musical ideas to another plane in another beautiful dimension. This could be pianist Edy Martinez at times, or trumpeter, Pete Nater at other times or the unbelievably accomplished violinist Lewis Kahn. But the main and seemingly secret parent is the bassist, Willie Cintron whose stoic harmonies provide the perfect foil for Jimenez to soar like that Red Tailed Hawk whose shadow the flutist is constantly chasing.
Cintron is a brilliant musician, whose choice of notes are truly inspired and inspiring to the others in the band. He always dances around the root notes of the harmonic changes opening new avenues for Jimenez to explore. The flutist, for his part never misses any opportunity to go where Cintron points. Then he becomes the consummate magician waving his flute as if it were a magic wand ahead and sometimes behind the beat. This is an experience that will live in the memory for a long time to come.
Track Listing: 1. Tanto Rogarte; 2. Goza Nena; 3. Tu Boquita Dulce y Maravillosa; 4. Alma con Alma; 5. Guaraguao (Red Tailed Hawk); 6. My One & Only Love; 7. La Playa; 8. Mambo Terrifico; 9. Cachita; 10. Tomando Café.
Personnel: Carlos Jimenez: flute (1 – 10), piano (10), vocals (1 – 4, 6 – 8); Edy Martinez: piano (1, 3 – 6, 9), synthesizer (7), vocals (1, 7); Sonny Bravo: piano (7); David Cruz: Piano (8); Willie Cintron: bass (1 – 7, 9, 10); George Cintron: timbales (1 – 5, 8, 9, 10), maracas (4), bongos, guiro (7); Juan Rodriguez: congas (1 – 7, 9, 10) Guillermo Jimenez: bongos (4, 5), timbales (7), chekere (1); Orlando Marin: timbales (6); Lewis Kahn: trombone (1, 10), violin (5, 9); Pete Nater: trumpet (2 – 4, 6); Ritchie Viruet: trumpet (10); John Guth: guitar (5); Guillermo Perez: Fender guitar, vocals (7).
Related links: Carlos Jimenez on the web: www.carlosjimenez.net