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Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble – Blueprints (Chicago Sessions)

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Darwin Noguera is a sublime talent. Not only does he have extraordinary technique, something he seems to have worked hard on, but he is brilliantly expressive and he has the dynamic that enables him to him to annunciate in various idioms and metaphors although his strongest is one with a heavy Latin underpinning—especially on this Big Band album, Blueprint, which he appears to have co-created with his alter ego, the trumpet playing Victor García. The pianist and the trumpeter might have made strange bedfellows were it not for the relationships already forged by the venerable Oscar Peterson and Dizzy Gillespie (Pablo Records, 1974). The one with Noguera and García might be longer-standing than that. Moreover, these two musicians write and arrange more like Lennon and McCartney than anyone else. And Blueprints contains some of the finest examples of this writing.

The bold, brassy pervasiveness of this band is replete with the muscular flexing not only of the burnished tones of the horns—the brass section has four trumpets and two trombones—but echoes with the valiant thunder of percussion as well. Although the forthright nature of the music is undiminished throughout and its existentialism is kept alive also by the steady throb of the electric bass, a certain softness does occur in the vocal chart that is gracefully negotiated by the clear and magnificent soprano of Nythia Martinez on “Timeless”, a chart that closes this fine album. However this is not before seven other majestic charts are worked over by some disciplined reading of melody, inventive harmony and the delicate persistence of the Latin beat.

Most of the writing may be attributed to García here, but Noguera has been known to contribute in large measure to the writing and certainly to the arrangement of the voicings as well. Both musicians may appear not to spend too much time on subtlety here, but this is probably deliberate. This is a collection of aggressive, bronzed charts and the clever use of the softer shades of the musical palette are used to enrich the tonal and timbral values of the music; to provide accents rather than to drive the beating heart of the compositions. A notable exception—in addition to “Timeless”, that is—might be Noguera’s “Milesmiles”, which is more than a clever play on Miles Davis’ path breaking eponymous album. Interestingly, the chart is a feature for the trumpet of García, but Noguera underpins the trumpeter’s bold insinuations with a gentle ebb and flow of musically harmonious waves to calm the fluttering melody.

The addition of Steve Turre on trombone, on “Captain Spok” and on shells on “Blueprints” is inspired. Turre brings his characteristic swelling tone, screeches and melodic smears to the charts and on the latter his vigorous harmonising on shells is spectacularly cast against the backdrop of Paoli Mejias’s robust showing on congas. This leaves the music of Blueprints, both the chart and the album to reverberate unforgettably long after the music is actually done.

Track Listing: Send Eggs; Milesmiles; Captain Spok; Vuelvo a Vivir; Blueprints; Bossa Pegajosa; Tierra; Timeless.

Personnel: Victor García: trumpet; Darwin Noguera: piano; Ernie Adams: drums (1, 3, 4, 6, 8); Tito Carillo: trumpet; Steve Eisen: baritone saxophone; Victor Gonzalez Jr.: congas; Roger Ingram: trumpet; Nythia Martinez: vocal; Rich Moore: alto saxophone (7), clarinet (7); John Mose: trombone; Juan Daniel Pastor: drums (2, 5, 7), cajó Juan Picorelli: timbales; Joshua Ramos: electric bass; Freddie Rodriguez: trumpet; Craig Sunken: trombone; Greg Ward II: alto saxophone; Rocky Year: tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, flute; Juan Turros: tenor saxophone; Steve Turre: trombone (3), shells (5); Paoli Mejias: congas (1, 5); Ricky Luis: vocals (4); Neal Alger: electric guitar.

Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble on the web: www.calje.org

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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