Art Jackson: Underground Masterpiece

Art Jackson - Underground MasterpieceThe term ‘Spanish Tinge’ is so hackneyed today. Moreover it contains only a half truth, that being that the music came from Spain. And its originator, Jelly Roll Morton certainly imagined a much more visceral reality for it when he coined it. The ‘Iberian’ suggestion was decidedly Moorish at any rate coming – as it did – from classical music more than anything else and plays out in pieces such as Joaquín Rodrigo’s 1939 tour de force, Concierto de Aranjuez. However, Morton’s term has come to mean something more primordial to musicians today: a melding together of African and Caribbean rhythms in jazz. Art Jackson captures this in all of its complex beauty in an enthralling recording entitled Underground Masterpiece, which consists of just eight songs but each one arranged to perfection.

This is life-affirming music. Its rhythm is the very essence of a heartbeat, the rush of hot blood to the brain making every musician and invisible, imaginary dancer mad with delight. Each song dares the listener to get on his or her feet, an enticing invitation to dance. To be sure this is reflected in the work of every musician on the recording, each of whom gives his all to Art Jackson, whether in soloing or performing as an ensemble. Jackson, meanwhile, has made each song into something absolutely magical. His arrangements are voluptuous. Melodies seem wholly new and eminently suited to flute, piano, saxophone and trumpet. Rhythms are churned up like firestorms by the battery of percussionists who conjure vivid pictures of the shaman and the faithful in Africa and the Caribbean.

Among the fines pieces on the album is a superb version of Bésame Mucho. This is a song that is usually drenched in emotion; a bolero that lights up the night. Art Jackson’s arrangement is performed as if it was on a concert stage and is flushed with beauty from the flute solo of Oriente López to the trumpet solo of Sal Cracchiolo to the rollicking tenor saxophone of Justo Almario and then Otmaro Ruiz’s piano. Pat Metheny’s and Lyle Mays’ To the End of the World and Horace Silver’s Cape Verdean Blues are masterfully reconstructed as Afro-Cuban masterpieces. But the centrepiece of the album comes, in fact, at the end of the performance.

In Love For Sale en Concierto we have a fabulous performance of two pieces from different shades of the musical spectrum. Cole Porter’s bittersweet piece of the lonely woman of the night melts into Rodrigo’s elementally beautiful and mystical Spanish concerto that all but wraps its arms around the woman assuaging her loneliness, mending her broken heart and drying the tears of the listener. There are brilliant soli from the musicians here, especially from guitarist Ramón Stagnaro. Meanwhile Art Jackson emerges as the master conductor of the ensemble who gives the music everything they’ve got. Clearly this album is what it’s cracked up to be – a masterpiece.

Track List: Chant for Eleguá; Mutants on the Beach; Besame Mucho; To the End of the World; Cape Verdean Blues; Coquí; Incompatibilidade; Love for Sale en Concierto.

Personnel: Erick Barberia: lead vocals, bàtá, percussion; John Santos: coro, percussion; Luís Barberia: coro; Gary Bias: tenor saxophone; Norbert Stachel: piano; Keith Jones; Robertito Melendez: congas, percussion; David Jackson: timbales, drums; Anthony Blea: violin; Otmaro Ruiz: piano; René Camacho: bass; Jimmy Branly: drums; Oriente López: flute; Justo Almario: tenor saxophone; Sal Cracchiolo: trumpet; Mark Cargill: violin; Serge Kasimoff: piano; Bill Ortíz: trumpet; Melecio Magdaluyo: tenor saxophone; David Goldblatt: keyboards; John Peña: bass; Roberto Quintana: timbales; Jesús Diaz: congas; John Beasley: piano; Alex Acuña: drums; Miguelito Martinez: flute; Chembo Corniel: congas; Katia Moraes: vocal; Jeff Cressman: trombones; Steve Erquiaga: guitars; Murray Low: piano; David Belove: bass; Paul van Wageningen: drums; Steven Kroon: percussion; Ramón Stagnaro: guitars; Gilbert Castellanos: trumpet.

Label: Independent
Release date: April 2014
Running time: 1:07:43
Buy music on: amazon

Raul Da Gama
Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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