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Rick Davies – Salsa Norteña

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That Rick Davies is a fine trombonist is something that is fast coming to light. This record, Salsa Norteña showcases his skills in the grand manner. His beautiful burnished tone and bronzed colours are accompanied by some of the finest smears and growls that so uplift his instrument that he is elevated to the top echelons of it.

Davies makes the notes in his energetic lines rise and fall like charged particles in an atom. He can also make these lines inhabit different planes as they strut and leap, making scalar elevations with expansive glissandi. Davies can also make powerful utterances en route to a fluid phrase, combining human, speech-like resonances with pure brassy tones. In some respects he resembles a cross between the Brazilian, Raul De Souza and the raw and gutsy majesty of Roswell Rudd.

Davies finds a perfect foil in the vocalastics of Jorge “Papo” Ross, who sings with such precision and uncannily perfect pitch that he lays claim to having a voice fit for an operatic aria, if he so chose. Ross is absolutely majestic on “Lady K” a powerful ballad that is eminently suited to the vocalist’s flutters and leaps. His soaring tenor resembles horn-like soli as he masterfully negotiates the verses that are assigned to the voice. Ross’ intonation is also a thing of beauty. He rolls his r’s and shapes his o’s and s’ like voluminous loops that consume the air around the other instruments, which must now go to great lengths to recover their space by drawing on the great lungs of their players . Ross has a delightful way of ending his lines with a husky vibrato that adds to the sensuousness of his enunciation as well. In this respect he is a perfect foil for the glazed instrumentation as well—both brass and woodwinds.

Salsa would be nothing without great percussion and this is eminently audible in the congas of Neville “Pichi” Ainsley and the drums and timbales of Jonathan Maldonado. The two instrumentalists are superb technicians as well as play with ferocious expression that creates a perfect atmosphere for the music to sizzle and pop. This simmering rhythm is complimented by the two pianists who play with exquisite tumbao rocking the two ensembles that Davies employs throughout the record. Both Kuki Carbucia and Ton Cleary are excellent throughout as are the horn players: trumpeters Eduardo Sánchez and Ray Vega as well as the saxophonists Alex Stewart and Ross as well, who plays a mean alto saxophone on “Son, Son, Son”.

It would be a travesty if Salsa Norteña does not capture the radio waves or remains a record that only critics will appreciate for it is a fine one indeed. The compositions—almost all of which are entirely credited to Rick Davis and Fernando Iturburu—are ingeniously designed. “Bembè Swing” and “Requiem por un Amigo” are two of the finest ones on this record and swing with delight. The art and architecture of the music might follow a similar structure but Davies also has some singular elements that he builds into his songs which give them a breathtaking sweep and vision, especially evident in the ensemble passages, which boast bold counterpoint. This together with the flawless, almost classical vocalastics of Jorge “Papo” Ross make for an album that is memorable long after the last notes have faded away.

Tracks: Baile de Amor; Campamento de Rumba; El Hombre de Panama; Bembè Swing; Requiem por un Amigo; Vega para ti; Lady K; Son, Son, Son.

Personnel: Rick Davies: trombone, Musical Director; Jorge “Papo” Ross: lead vocals (1, 3, 5, 7), alto saxophone (7); Alex Stewart: tenor saxophone (2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8); Eduardo Sanchez: trumpet (1, 3, 5, 7); Ray Vega: trumpet (2, 4, 6, 8); Kuki Carbucia: piano (1, 3, 5, 7); Tom Cleary: piano (2, 4, 6, 8); Edward Maldonado: bass (1, 3, 5, 7); John Rivers: bass (2, 4, 6, 8); Neville “Pichi” Ainsley: congas; Jonathan Maldonado: drums; Rosa Ramirez: coro (1, 3, 5, 7); Alejandro Torrens: coro (1, 3, 5, 7); Jorge “Papo” Ross: coro (1, 3, 5, 7).

Rick Davies on the Web: www.jazzismo.com

Label: Emlyn Music

Release date: July 2012

Reviewed by: 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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