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Ray Obiedo: Latin Jazz Project vol. 2

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Ray Obiedo

There is no guitarist who sounds so laid back, yet incredibly cool than Ray Obiedo. In fact, he plays with such a languid, liquid style, one harmonic variation flowing inexorably after another that the source of his playing sounds as if it were in the rarefied air of a mountain somewhere where everything is pristine. This is why his music sounds so marvelous and romantically beautiful. Not for him is the nitty-gritty and dirty, dusty notes that sound as if they were wrought by sandpaper rather than gliding the fingers [or plectrum] on the gleaming steel strings of his guitar.

Album cover - Ray Obiedo: Latin Jazz Project vol.2
Album cover – Ray Obiedo: Latin Jazz Project vol.2

His music is uniquely West Coast Latin – with that signature, undulant rhythm that causes men and women dancing to pivot their bodies around each other, rolling the hips seductively as they beckon each other closer and closer in a kind of sensual ritual. The fact that this is how most of the music on this album sounds could have been a disadvantage, and make for a similarity between the tracks that makes one indistinguishable from the other. But listen closely and deeply and you will discern subtle variations. Listeners familiar with Bolero by the great French impressionist, Maurice Ravel will know what this means. In that piece, each ostinato strophe builds on the preceding one accentuating it and varying subtly at its core. This is the kind of principle one discerns in Mr Obiedo’s music.

And then there is also the bigger differentiation which lies at the heart of each arrangement. A wonderful example of this may be heard on [the difference between] “Criss Cross” with horn arrangements by one trombonist Mike Rinta, who is quite the revelation, and which also features a wonderful, dawdling montuno section in which the piano is played with zest and gusto, and the congas and timbales duel with a cold fire. Contrast this with “Santa Lucia” which features horn arrangements by the other trombonist/arranger Jeff Cressman. This song is the proverbial rendition of a sun-splashed piece, evocative of waves from a tumbling sea, combing the Caribbean beach of the island with foam.

Latin Jazz Project vol 2 is – just like its formidable predecessor – stacked with fine musicians. Unsurprisingly tenor saxophonist Bob Mintzer, the celebrated percussionist Sheila E and drummer David Garibaldi headline the album. However, the marquee is full of other stellar musicians’ names – from Michael Spiro, the Flying Dutchmen: the Wageningen brothers [RIP Paul van Wageningen], saxophonist and flutist Melecio Magdaluyo, bassist David Belove, percussionists Peter Michael Escovedo and Karl Perazzo, and pianist Peter Horvath [to name but a few] – all of whom are mainstays of the West Coast music scene and among the finest journeymen in music. This is far from just another Ray Obiedo album; it is, very possibly, his very best one yet.


Track list – 1: Still Life; 2: Criss Cross; 3: Beatnik; 4: Santa Lucia; 5: Belafonte; 6: Uno Dos; 7: Viva Tirado; 8: Big World

Personnel – Ray Obiedo: guitar, and keyboards [3, 5, 6, 8]; Featuring – Bob Mintzer: tenor saxophone [3, 6]; Sheila E: conga [soli 2, 8]; David Garibaldi: drums [6]; Peter Horvath: piano [soli 1, 4, 5], and keyboard [solo 6]; David K. Mathews: keyboards [1, 2, 4, 8], piano [solo 7], and organ [6, 7]; Norbert Stachel: flute [2, 4], and alto flute [5]; Mike Olmos: trumpet [2, 7], and flugelhorn [3]; Rita Thies: flute and alto flute [1]; Melecio Magdaluyo: flute, tenor saxophone and alto saxophone [7]; Joe Cohen: tenor saxophone [2, 4]; Erik Jekabson: flugelhorn [1]; Mike Rinta: bass trombone [1], trombone [2], and horn arrangements [2, 3]; Jeff Cressman: trombone [4], and horn arrangements [4]; Doug Rowan: baritone saxophone [2]; Bob Crawford: additional piano [2]; Marc van Wageningen: bass [5, 6, 8]; Lilan Kane: vocals [5]; Sandy Cressman: background vocals [5]; Jenny Meltzer: background vocals [5]; Phil Hawkins: drums [1, 5, 8], and steel pans [6]; David Belove: bass [1, 2, 4, 7]; Dewayne Pate: bass [3];  Peter Michael Escovedo: percussion [3, 5, 6, 8], and congas [5, 6, 7]; Michael Spiro: güiro [1, 6], tamborim [1], shaker [1, 6], maracas [6], and percussion [5]; Jon Bendich: congas [5]; Karl Perazzo: timbales and percussion [2, 4]; Colin Douglas: wood block [8]; Billy Johnson: drums [3]; Paul van Wageningen: drums [4]

Released – 2021
Label Rhythmus Records
Runtime – 47:16

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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