Mac Gollehon is not the first name that comes to mind when considering the trumpet or trombone; it is not even among the first five that come to mind, but it ought to be. Mr. Gollehon is one of the most talented players of both instruments. He is also among the most soulful musicians on any instrument.
His album, La Fama proves this beyond any semblance of doubt. Why Mr. Gollehon and his music are so little known even though he was praised by Miles Davis defies logic. Why a musician who played with a wide spectrum of great musicians from Ray Barretto and Hector Lavoe to Doc Cheatham and Lester Bowie is even more incredulous. Perhaps all this might change now that Mr. Gollehon has released this record; a collection of charts from the 70s and 80s. This record almost completely in the Latin Jazz dialect is a fitting complement to his 2010 recording, Mac Straight Ahead another masterful record. On both records Mr. Gollehon shows that he is a virtuoso horn player of the highest order. Technically supreme, Mr. Gollehon is also a tremendously gifted interpreter of almost any kind of music, reading and playing what he does with the heart and soul of someone made almost completely of music and the mind of a metaphysical poet.
When Mac Gollehon puts his lips to the mouthpiece of his trumpet or his trombone, the interior landscape of someone born of the spirit comes to life. That brass is an extension of his body makes Mr. Gollehon someone like Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins; as well as musicians like Charles Mingus for all of whom the instruments they played seemed to be like an extra limb. There is something else that is special about Mr. Gollehon: his music voice is full of human expressions—growls, smears, splutters, wails, and best of all, graceful sighs and secret whispers. As he plays either horn he mixes the human, speech-like sounds slurring like a drunk; wailing like a wounded child, gurgling a wounded person in the throes of death or even squealing with the pure joy of living again. His lines are full of surprises. They might interrupt melodies, turning linear measures inside-out or scatter the notes in the middle of a chorus to the winds and recollect the notes as they fall back at him, shuffling every single one on reverse. His playing is often slanted, like that of Thelonious Monk’s and when this kind of music finds itself nestling cheek-by-jowl with a Latin rhythm, rocking with congas and timbales, there is something mystical and magical about it. With his hot fiery breath, Mr. Gollehon fans the flames of each of the wonderful tracks that dapple this stunning record.
The charts—almost all written by Mr. Gollehon—are collected from various times between 1979 and 1987 or even later. Many of these have been written to honour some of the touchstones in his long and illustrious career in the Latin music world. “La Fama” was originally written for a date with Hector Lavoe, but the star could not make the date so it turned into an instrumental in homage to Mr. Lavoe. “Donde Lo Hace Duelen” was written and recorded after spending some time noodling with Miles Davis. Whatever the impetus, the music has extraordinary character. Whether played in a small ensemble or large band format, the music sounds spectacular. Much of this has to do with the playing of Mr. Gollehon, who solos on trumpet and trombone; but there is another important reason for the superb nature of the music. This has to do with the stellar line-up that includes pianists Charlie Palmieri and Hilton Ruiz; percussionists Frankie Malaby, SA Davis, Eddie Montalvo and others. “Fotos De Los Ochentas” features the extraordinary bassist, Ray Martinez; Nite Trax, features some brilliant angular trumpet work by Lester Bowie and Mr. Gollehon as well; “Conjunto Moods” has a fascinating interplay between Mr. Gollehon, Doc Cheatham and trumpeter Ray Maldonado. Both charts have outstanding performances on batá by SA Davis. The record is also graced by Mr. Gollehon’s long time rhythm section of bassist Bernard Edwards and drummer Tony Thompson. Of course it is the sensational playing of Mac Gollehon on both trumpet and trombone that makes this record a desert island essential.
Tracks: La Fama; New Mac City; Introspection; Voices; Casino; Fried Neck Bones; Donde Lo Hace Duelen; Fotos De Los Ochentas; Conjunto Moods; Nite Trax; A Night in Tunisia.
Personnel: Mac Gollehon: trumpet, trombone; Charlie Palmieri: organ; Larry Harlow: piano, organ; Hilton Ruiz: piano, organ; Gilberto “El Pupo” Colon: piano; Alon Nechushten: piano, Wurlitzer; Carlos “Patato” Valdez: congas; Frankie Malaby: congas, bata; SA Davis: congas, bata; Eddie Montalvo: congas; Francisco “Kako” Bastar: timbales; Nicky Marrero: timbales; Pablo Rosario: bongo; Sammy Pagan: bata; Poncho Roman: timbales; Jimmy Delgado: percussion; Ray Colon: percussion; Tony Thompson: drums; Bernard Edwards: bass; Ray Martinez: bass; Victor Venegas: bass; Alex Blake: bass; Ray Maldonado: trumpet; Lester Bowie: trumpet; Jose Febles: trumpet; Doc Cheatham: trumpet; “Puchi” Boulong: trumpet; Jose: Rodriguez: trombone; Harry D’Aguiar: trombone; Barry Rogers: trombone; Michael Grey: trombone; Baron Raymonde: alto saxophone; Mauricio Smith: flute; Robert Arron: flute, piccolo; A. J. Mantas: vibes.
Mac Gollehon on the Web: www.mac-nyc.com
Label: American Showplace Music | Release date: November 2012
Reviewed by: Raul da Gama