Best Latin Jazz Albums of 2013 – Part II


Best of 2013 part 2
First of all my apologies for taking so long to publish the second part of my Best Latin Jazz Albums of 2013. Some of these recordings were received close to the end of the year (2013) and I didn’t want to leave them out. They certainly deserved to get a review and to be included on this hard to select list. There were so many great recordings that it was very difficult to come up with this short list. On the other hand, it’s never too late to praise talent, and these albums are truly outstanding. I’m sure you will agree with me after listening to the track samples. I also included three magnificent albums that were released at the very end of the year 2012. They deserve to be mentioned and added to our list of Best Recordings of 2012.

Big Stuff–Afro-Cuban Holiday: Venissa Santi (Sunnyside Records – USA)

Just what is so special about the vocalastics of Venissa Santi—just what is so singularly unique—is so eminently clear on Big Stuff—Afro-Cuban Holiday, the brilliantly innovative follow-up to her 2009 Sunnyside Records debut, Bienvenida. If at first blush this record appears to be a mere tribute to the great Billie Holiday, it is clear that first impressions can be somewhat deceptive. True, this is Ms. Santi’s homage to the legendary singer. However the music on this record comes from the very depth of Ms. Santi’s soul… – Read Our Review

Connection Caracas–New York: Alí Bello (Zoho Music – USA)

Alí Bello is a master of his instrument; a player of extraordinary refinement, who seems to suffuse the violin with a powerful electrical charge as he plays it. His intonation is beautiful. It imitates the most primordial of sounds—the cry of an eagle soaring high above the highest mountain; its wail echoing from ridge to ridge and then some. Mr. Bello’s left hand appears to caress the strings stretched taut across the fretless neck and fingerboard of the violin—from chin to root and beyond. But they do not always move… – Read Our Review

Latin Jazz/Jazz Latin: Wayne Wallace Quintet’s (Patois Records – USA)

This time around the five-time Grammy Award nominee brings us Latin Jazz/Jazz Latin… Trombonist and composer Wayne Wallace revamps traditional Cuban and Caribbean sounds with modern arrangements rooted in the most pure Latin jazz tradition. Who else than him to bring together the music of American and Caribbean communities together with an album that displays harmonic creativity, wonderful improvisation and Latin feeling. – Read Our Review

Border-Free: Chucho Valdés and the Afro-Cuban Messengers (Jazz Village – France)

The connotation of the music of Chucho Valdés being Border-Free, from soul to finger-tips, is that idiom and metaphor melt—one into the other—and that lines are blurred; so much so that the imagery and sound of musical topography of continents merge in a singular, beautiful song. In Spanish the title of this record is Sin Fronteras–without frontier, almost as if the sound, the image… and the very narrative of the music has no frontier… – Read Our Review

Expectativas: Manuel Valera & New Cuban Express (Mavo Records – USA)

Manuel Valera and New Cuban Express seem to have picked up from where they left off. Their album Expectativas has the same vigor and the same energy as its Grammy-nominated predecessor, New Cuban Express (2011). And while Mr. Valera may be continuing in that vein: that is the innovative use of Afri-Cuban rhythms to forge a new relationship with the idiom of jazz, this record, Expectativas brings something new… – Read Our Review

La Noche Más Larga: Buika (Warner Music – Spain)

There is an aspect of vocalastics in a rarified realm that when attained by the singer, replaces earthly country and heritage with the whole of the cosmos. Vocalists such as Billie Holiday, Abbey Lincoln, and more recently, Lucía Pulido have attained that status. And now, Buika, as well… Singing in a flamenco idiom, conjuring up the perfect polyrhythmic storm of Africa, of this part of the world and that dissolves into the expression of a force so elementally ethereal and other worldly that the emotional or narrative outpouring… – Read Our Review

Finas Misturas: Antonio Adolfo (AAM Music – USA/Brazil)

Fine mixture indeed. Like a master chef, holding all the secrets to great recipes, Mr. Adolfo directs the addition of the herbs and spices that turn a great recipe into superb music. His hand is even as it tips the ingredients into a bubbling pot in which the music is constantly cooking. Miraculously, Mr. Adolfo is remarkably restrained; soloing rarely and then too, in short bursts, as if to gently push the music in a newly magical and mysterious direction. Almost always his playing has hushed tones, as if his body/the music is… – Read Our Review

Ivan Renta: Take off A Musical Odyssey (USA/Puerto Rico)

If a musical odyssey takes place when tenor saxophonist Iván Renta divests himself from one of several ensembles he participates in, to finally record an album as leader, then so be it. The reason: Mr. Renta can now stretch almost magically to sing his song in the long form of singularity. Mr. Renta’s voice is brazen and ever so muscular. He is constantly flexing his tone as he graces the music with mighty glissandos, which glide majestically from deep inside the lower registers of the tenor horn, to the upper register… Read Our Review

Song for Maura: Paquito D’Rivera and Trio Corrente (Sunnyside Records – USA)

Just when it is believed that Paquito D’Rivera is a fine alto saxophonist who also plays clarinet, he goes and makes an album almost completely on clarinet—a Brasilian one at that; in homage to a country and its people most beloved to the Cuban-born, New York-based genius. Perhaps the magic moment had arrived—never too early and never too late. And as it was all a matter of sharing love, Mr. D’Rivera put it all out there, playing one of his favourite songs and naming the album after one of his favourite women of all time… – Read Our Review

Ciudad de los Reyes: Gabriel Alegría Afro-Peruvian Sextet (Saponegro Records – Peru)

The waves of music break with scorching energy ashore on the known world of music from the city of regal ascension cause ripples far inland, in the mind’s mind. It is there that the sound of the trumpet and the saxophone together with the mighty wallop on the cajón brings sassy Afro-Peruvian music to life again, at the hands of one of the most exciting Latin American groups performing today: Gabriel Alegría’s Afro-Peruvian Sextet. Here is a band that tames even the mighty sun that reins in all its glory across the city of kings… – Read Our Review


Azul : Roberto López Afro-Colombian Jazz Orchestra (Curura Musique – Canada/Colombia)

Azul takes us on an educational journey throughout the Colombian musical territory. Certainly Cumbia and Porro are two of the best-known musical products that the South American country has given to the world, but the richness and diversity of Afro-Colombian rhythms is incredibly vast. Along Cumbia and Porro, get ready to dig Fandango, Paseo, Champeta, Chandé and Mapalé. Those different rhythms are intrinsically associated with a specific region of the country… – Read Our Review

ReContraDoble: Pablo Ablanedo (Creative Nation Music – USA/Argentina)

The beauty of ReContraDoble lies in its exquisite counterpoint that pits the brass against the woodwinds; the guitar against the piano with the drums and percussion and the bass, goading the dangerous dance of instruments onward and forward until they all become interminably intertwined with each other like some mutating, complex instrumental DNA molecule. Add to this the fact that the music appears to be played by musicians reflecting, each one reflecting the melody against some kind of glacial surface… – Read Our Review

Me Quito El Sombrero: Enriquito (Enrique Rodríguez) (Youkali Music – Spain)

Conventional wisdom might suggest that there can be no Spanish music—especially that, which derives from traditional Flamenco sounds—without the lead voice being a Spanish guitar. But then Me Quito El Sombrero definitely breaks that mould. It is a record fronted by Enrique Rodriguez, a fine horn player, who leads a moveable feast of musicians in an ensemble named after the diminutive of his own name, Enriquito. This is not an experiment, as that would have entailed a hypothesis, which would have to be… – Read Our Review