More Noteworthy Recordings of 2011


    By Raul da Gama, Janine Santana, Wilbert Sostre

    Claudio Roditi - Bons Amigos Claudio Roditi – Bons Amigos (Resonance Records)
    Most fans, even aficionados of contemporary music, still only vaguely know the great trumpeter Claudio Roditi as the “Brazilian who joined Arturo Sandoval in Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nations Orchestra”. It is a pity that Roditi’s musical reputation rests on so narrow a spectrum in his enormous musical career. Few know, for instance, that Roditi was one of the first Brazilian musicians to relocate in the United States of America: in 1970 as a matter of fact. Since then he has criss-crossed America playing with the likes of Tito Puente, Mario Bauzá, Ray Barretto and Dizzy Gillespie…
    Read full review by Raul da Gama.
    Silvano Monasterios - Unconditional   Silvano Monasterios – Unconditional (Savant Records)
    Silvano Monasterios reaped the benefit of a valuable education. Born in Caracas, Monasterios studied classical piano at José Lamas Conservatory, learned the traditional rhythms associated with sambas of South America, and studied jazz at home with his father. This combination has integrated and developed Monasterios into a superb composer and performer. After winning a scholarship award for best soloist at the Miami Jazz Festival, he moved to the United States to attend Miami-Dade College. He has several jazz honors both here and in Venezuela…
    Read full review by Janine Santana (jazzhistoryonline).
    Jane Bunnett & Hilario Durán – Cuban Rhapsody   Jane Bunnett & Hilario Durán – Cuban Rhapsody (Alma Rec)
    Saxophonist and flutist Jane Bunnett exploration of cuban music started back in the 1990’s and she is a frequent visitor to Cuba. So Bunnett is not a newcomer to the world of latin music. In fact Bunnett received the 2002 Smithsonian Institute Award for her contributions and dedication to the development of latin jazz. On her new release Cuban Rhapsody, Bunnett recorded with her long time musical friend pianist virtuoso Hilario Duran. Their music partnership goes back to 1990 when Bunnett went to Cuba to record her album Spirits of Havana. Bunnett and her husband…
    Read full review by Wilbert Sostre.
    Diego Urcola Quartet – Appreciation   Diego Urcola Quartet – Appreciation (CAM Jazz/Sunnyside)
    Diego Urcola’s is a voice that remained somewhat hidden—certainly tucked away—for two decades in Paquito D’Rivera’s quintet. And then there was the subdued role he played in Los Guachos, the fabulous larger ensemble. However the graceful candour of his voice is irrepressible and it was only a matter of time when he would be heard for what he really is and plays. Urcola is distinct and a singular artist in the manner of his more famous countryman Leandro “Gato” Barbieri. The trumpeter plays with sensuous swagger and digs deep into his own soul for…
    Read full review by Raul da Gama.
    Antonio Adolfo - Chora Baião   Antonio Adolfo – Chora Baião (AAM Music)
    Antonio Adolfo is not very well-known outside of Brazil—yet! His beautiful new recording "Chora Baião" (Cry Baião) is a successful marriage of traditional northern Brazilian musical forms (which meld African, European and indigenous cultures) and jazz. Adolfo has taken the music of two beloved Brazilian artists, Guinga and Chico Buarque, whose fortes are choro and baião and arranged it with his own elegant flavor. He respectfully maintains the integrity of these two masters while infusing his own mastery of composition and arrangement. The album opens with “Dá O Pé …
    Read full review by Janine Santana (jazzhistoryonline).
    Wayne Wallace - To Hear from There   Wayne Wallace – To Hear from There (Patois Records)
    Wayne Wallace continues to explore the infectious Afro-Cuban rhythms on To Here From There, the follow-up to his 2010 Grammy-nominated album, Bien Bien! (Patois Record, 2009). Wallace is a trombonist with vast experience that includes collaborations with artists such as Count Basie, Joe Henderson, Lionel Hampton, Sonny Rollins and Tito Puente. Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet plays like they were born in Cuba. The danceable “La Escuela” with its piano montuno and the distinctive clave of the Cuban son is dedicated to La Escuela Nacional de las Artes…
    Read full review by Wilbert Sostre.
    Hendrik Meurkens - Live at Bird's Eye   Hendrik Meurkens – Live at Bird’s Eye (Zoho Music)
    Hendrik Meurkens is, most certainly, one of the greatest musical adventurers from Europe. The harmonica wunderkind who also happens to be a fine vibraphone player seems to have almost singlehandedly rediscovered Brazil decades after Stan Getz and Joe Henderson did almost five decades ago. In doing so Meurkens along with the grandmaster of the harmonica, Toots Thielemans, has cast a refreshing light on Brazilian music, focussing on the angularity and aching beauty longing of its beloved choro. Not only has he brought a new instrument (the harmonica) to…
    Read full review by Raul da Gama.
    Oscar Pérez Nuevo Comienzo - Afropean Affair   Oscar Pérez Nuevo Comienzo – Afropean Affair (Chandra Rec)
    Originally from Queens, pianist Oscar Perez studied both classical music and jazz. He focused on jazz because he was able to acquire more work in nightclubs than concert halls. Yet his classical music training comes through in his original compositions. The title work of the present recording, “Afropean Affair” is a commissioned suite from Chamber Music America which combines themes of the past, present and future of music from African, European and jazz sources. While some of the press material claims that Perez is creating a new musical form, I hear this…
    Read full review by Janine Santana (jazzhistoryonline).
    David Sánchez, Stefon Harris, Christian Scott - Ninety Miles   Sánchez, Harris, Scott – Ninety Miles (Concord Picante)
    Three young music virtuosos join forces in the Ninety Miles Project, one of the best albums of 2011. Grammy nominated vibraphonist Stefon Harris, New Orleans native, and also Grammy nominated trumpetist Christian Scott and Grammy winner saoxophone master David Sanchez. Ninety Miles is the distance between the USA and Cuba, two countries with great political differences but with a greater love for good music. Recorded in Cuba with cuban pianists Rember Duharte and Harold Lopez Nussa, Ninety Miles is also the result of the visit and exploration of Cuban music…
    Read full review by Wilbert Sostre.
    Afrodisian Orchestra – Satierismos   Afrodisian Orchestra – Satierismos (Youkali Music)
    And now comes Satierismos a superb homage from the large Spanish ensemble, Afrodisian Orchestra. These are extraordinary musicians who have—to a man—a wild sense of creativity. Each of the members of the orchestra show outstanding technique especially pianist Marta Sánchez and under the majestic musical direction of Miguel Blanco, the ensemble displays a tremendous genius for tonal color and command of instrumental timbre. But their greatest asset could well be their monumental sense of rhythm, particularly how to take control of this aspect of the…
    Read full review by Raul da Gama.
    Sammy Figueroa And His Latin Jazz Explosion -  Urban Nature   Sammy Figueroa – Urban Nature (Senator Records)
    For years he has been heard as the driving percussion force behind many disparate legends in a variety of music genres. Involved in multiple Grammy-winning projects, and well versed as a multi percussionist in a variety of world rhythms, he is firmly established as a first call recording and touring musician. Yet this is not where Sammy Figueroa will stay. He has stepped away from being a sideman to shine as a leader. Figueroa’s skills, mature savvy and humor are revealed with perfect timing in his new CD, “Urban Nature”. While the groove of this recording is Latin…
    Read full review by Janine Santana (jazzhistoryonline).
    Magos Herrera - Mexico Azul   Magos Herrera – Mexico Azul (Sunnyside Records)
    Magos Herrera is the Cassandra Wilson of latin america. There are similarities in their warm, sultry tone, their bluesy feeling and strong command of the jazz language. What makes Magos Herrera different and certainly a unique voice in the jazz world today is her latin heritage that she proudly displays in all of her music. The CD notes describes México Azul as a celebration of México’s golden age of cinema and television. That was back in the 30’s and 40’s. A lot of good music came out of that era, and Magos did a good job in the song selection for this album…
    Read full review by Wilbert Sostre.
    Duduka da Fonseca Trio Plays Toninho Horta   Duduka da Fonseca Trio Plays Toninho Horta (Zoho Music)
    Plays Toninho Horta marks the arrival of Da Fonseca as a masterful interpreter of fine repertoire and inasmuch, as he has made Horta’s music his own, something of a “composer” as well. Da Fonseca is clearly one of the finest rhythm colorists around. He is one of several musicians who followed in the footsteps of fellow-Brazilians, Santos, Claudio Roditi and Nilson Matta in locating themselves in the United States. In bringing their artistry abroad, these musicians have become virtual ambassadors for Brazilian musical culture in that country. As is the case with…
    Read full review by Raul da Gama.
    Francisco Mela and Cuban Safari - Tree of Life   Francisco Mela and Cuban Safari – Tree of Life (Half Note)
    Francisco Mela is a man who lives to drum. He studied in his native Cuba and at Berklee College in Boston. He has been known to rehearse twelve hours a day. He caught the attention of Joe Lovano, and the saxophonist hired him for his band Us 5, and strongly encouraged Mela to compose and perform his own music. “Tree of Life” is Mela’s third CD as a leader and it features his band Cuban Safari, which, in addition to Mela’s drums, includes Elio Villafranca and Leo Genovese on piano, Uri Gurvich on sax, Ben Monder on guitar, Luques Curtis on bass, and Mauricio…
    Read full review by Janine Santana (jazzhistoryonline).
    Kalani Trinidad - Crossing Bridges   Kalani Trinidad – Crossing Bridges (Self produced)
    Flutist Kalani Trinidad is one of the brightest young stars in the Puerto Rico jazz scene today and the first Puerto Rican to win a Presidential Scholarship from Berklee School of Music in Boston. In his style Trinidad echoes the best of the great Puerto Rican flutist that came before him. One may hear on his music the finesse and sensitivity of a Nestor Torres and the inventiveness and intensity of a Dave Valentín. The music on Trinidad debut album Crossing Bridges has elements of smooth jazz on compositions like “Ubiquitous Being”, fusion jazz on “Noche en Madrid”…
    Read full review by Wilbert Sostre.


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