There’s uncommon poise and elegance in spades in this incredible debut recording of Noah Bless; incredible because Mr Bless has, for years, brought his gifts to numerous dates with the likes of legendary Afro-Cuban musicians such as Mario Bauzá and Celia Cruz, equally legendary Nuyorican master musicians such as Willie Colón and Eddie Palmieri, and great ensembles, among them Arturo O’Farrill’s Lincoln Center Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra and Oscar Hernández’s Spanish Harlem Orchestra.
Through all this celebrated history Mr Bless remains quietly earthy, voicing his instrument of choice – the trombone – with a poetic lilt that has made him an artist of the first order. He is not only one of the most gifted instrumentalists of his generation, but also an arranger and interpreter of consummate skill. This can be savoured by the superbly produced music, which includes some classic repertoire that is played with technical brilliance and emotional eloquence. Throughout Mr Bless also reveals that he has feel for the art of melodic feeling, tempered by a harmonic and rhythmic genius, all of which he displays in the way he masters changes in mood, colour and tempi.
Mr Bless’ album New York Strong-Latin Jazz! Features beautifully crafted arrangements of beguiling variety and sensuousness, not simply played with, but lovingly caressed in every phrase and melodic variation. His chosen material is, without exception, judiciously chosen – focusing on well-known Brasilian songs form the pens of Baden Powell and Tom Jobim to an old chestnut from James Taylor and one by the great Ray Santos as well.
Listening to the way in which Mr Bless seductively bends the notes in a soaring balladic rendition of “Ligia”; to the elemental wail on “Fire and Rain”; and how he sculpts the long, sustained inventions of “Canto de Ossanha” and on his original, “The Key”, it’s clear that there’s not a single semiquaver that hasn’t been fastidiously considered. Mr Bless’ musical cohort features some of the best-known, prodigiously-gifted musicians – including heavy-weights such as Mike Eckroth, whose genius for composition, performance and inventive interpretation of tradition has earned him the respect and adoration of composers and arrangers from Havana and New York.
The rhythm section includes the inimitable bassist Boris Kozlov and the drummer Pablo Bencid, whose power and musicality jumps out at you, as well as celebrated percussion colourist Luisito Quintero. Flutist Alejandro Avilés makes his enormous presence felt on two tracks. Every one of the musicians is completely attuned to Mr Bless’ artistry and vision and each – in solo and in ensemble – brings something special to this date, captured in the warmth of a truly memorable recording.
Track list – 1: Chasing Normal; 2: Ganga; 3: Canto de Ossanha; 4: 49th Street; 5: Ligia; 6: The Key; 7: Fire and Rain; 8: Sunny Day
Personnel – Noah Bless: trombone; Mike Eckroth: piano and organ ; Boris Kozlov: bass; Pablo Bencid: drums; Luisito Quintero: percussion; Alejandro Avilés: flute [4, 6]
Released – 2020
Label – ZOHO Music [ZM202010]
Runtime – 39:58