Victor Rendón & Bronx Conexión Latin Jazz Big Band: Mambo Boulevard
It is, indeed, so easy to make the proverbial “conexión” between the Bronx and the interminable rhythm that echoes seemingly throughout El Barrio when you listen with ears wide open to Mambo Boulevard. Not only is the title apt to describe a street reverberating with music, but the line that ends in that near-mythical destination also seems to lead directly from a kind of magic wand that Victor Rendón seems to wave at his musical cohort when not using both his hands to make a persuasive case for frenetic dancing from one of several percussion instruments that he plays with such elegant muscularity and flair.
All of this begins with a connection between Mr Rendón’s roots that run deep into the music into which he pours his effervescent spirit. The result is music that is grand – as in “Mambo Boulevard” – and even expansive – as in “Aguacero”. Lyricism and boundless rhythmic energy burst forth form these as well as the other vivacious charts that are magnificently performed on this album. “El Chocante” sets the pace, tone and tempo for all the repertoire, which – in turn – sets the whole recording alight with terrific swagger. Songs swell in powerful harmonic and rhythmic waves and swoon in the ones where the vocalists take command of the music from up front.
Brass and woodwinds provide a wonderfully sculpted shape to the melodies, each of which unravel in one delightful harmonic variation after another. The silky, rounded sound of the horns evoke the seduction and allure that has made this Latin-inflected music so irresistible wherever in the world it is played. It is not – to be sure – an idiom that comes easily to musicians from whom it demands not simply virtuosity, but a heart and soul immersed in the very water from which it springs eternal.
It is this fact that sets Victor Rendón & Bronx Conexión apart from numerous other ensembles that, while playing this music, may never quite sound as masterful, or play music with the lofty exuberance that Victor Rendón and his musicians do. Celebrated guests – such as the incomparable trumpeter Ray Vega – mingle and bolster the Bronx Conexión, a smart, well-oiled machine that also includes the inimitable percussionist Chembo Corniel, saxophonist Paul Carlon and trombonist David Chamberlain – ubiquitous artists wherever this kind of music is celebrated with unfettered joy and excellence.
Track list – 1: El Chocante; 2: Chale; 3: Mami me Gustó; 4: Mambo Boulevard; 5: Biwa Lake; 6: Aprende Muchacho; 7: Leeway; 8: Nueces River; 9: Aguacero
Personnel – Victor Rendón: timbale [1, 2, 4, 7 and soli on 2, 4] and drum set [7 – 9]; Wilson “Chembo” Corniel: tumbadoras and congas [solo on 1, 7]; Cascadú: shekere and other percussion; Yasuyo Kimura: bongo and cencero [solo on 9]; Jessica Valiente: flute [soli on 8, 9]; Al Acosta: alto saxophone; Debra Kreisberg: alto saxophone [solo on 8]; John Stelluti: tenor saxophone [soli on 1, 9]; Paul Carlon: tenor saxophone [soli on 1, 2, 5]; Karl Watson: baritone saxophone [solo onn 9]; Anibal Martínez: trumpet and flugelhorn [solo on 6]; John Replogle: trumpet and flugelhorn; Kathleen Doran: trumpet and flugelhorn; Guido Gonzalez: trumpet and flugelhorn [solo on 7]; Aquiles Navarro: trumpet and flugelhorn [1, 2, 4, 5, 7]; Mark McGowan: trumpet and flugelhorn ; Rick Faulkner: trombone [soli on 5, 9]; Leonard Walworth: trombone; David Chamberlain: trombone; Preston Judd: bass trombone; Joe Mannozzi: piano; Michael Viñas: bass ; Guests – Jorge Maldonado: lead vocals [3, 6], maracas and güiro; Ray Vega: trumpet [soli on 1, 4]; Marco Bermudez: coro [3, 6]; Hector Dávila a.k.a Chegüi Metralla: coro [3, 6]; Morris “Arnie” Lang: cymbals 
Released – 2021
Label – Independent
Runtime – 55:31
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