Dick Brewer is a pianist with a fine technique and a sure-footed way around the complexities of the Latin music idiom. However, on It’s All About Latin Jazz, it’s actually all about his writing – composing and arranging to be precise. A cursory look at the package deepens the mystery rather than enables one to get closer to the truth. Details are scant – even an attempt to uncover more about the pianist is futile; even well- nigh impossible. Links to websites have either been corrupted or do not even exist. Why is this significant? Well, if something is interesting one wants to dig a little deeper; to know more and that’s impossible at least for now.
Musically however, it’s quite another story. To begin with the title of the recording all but gives the game away. The music does hold other wonders. The most obvious aspect to enjoy is the manner in which the charts unfold. Each is rich in texture and blooms as if in an explosion of colour from an enormous palette of colours. Remarkably the ensemble is rather small and features but one drummer and two percussionists, one being the celebrated drummer, Joe McCarthy who doubles-up as a percussion colourist when not coaxing magic out of the drums with an assortment of sticks, brushes and mallets. his sticks. The strings are luscious, but they seem soft, almost lost in a rather strange mix. Despite all of this the music produced by Dick Brewer and his rather small ensemble feels really BIG.
Mr Brewer is a worthy composer of Latin Jazz in a cool, West Coast dialect. His writing is replete with subtle nuances and the ensemble responds to these with full sounding, carefully-shaped dialogues between them. Soloing is kept to the minimum, all to the service of the music. The mood around here is almost uniformly cheerful and why not? Music derived from the Afro-Caribbean dialect is especially redolent of celestial joie de vivre. And while there is no overt suggestion of Lucumi here, clearly Dick Brewer knows what that too is all about which makes the absence of the bàtá drums somewhat surprising, all things considered.
Nevertheless Dick Brewer makes a strong case for carrying a bright torch for Latin Jazz. And he does so with technical mastery and profound insight into music conceived on a large canvas first and foremost. Deploying the widest possible range of colour, dynamics and articulation (as a pianist), he brings a surprisingly varied degree of emotions to music that can often be unremittingly clone-like. By ratcheting up tension and toning things down at irregular intervals, Mr Brewer maintains an element of surprise. Music such as this deserves better than what it has received in terms of the engineering piece. The horns sometimes sound dour and soft as does Mr Brewer’s piano and that’s a pity.
Track List: 1: She’s Dancing; 2: Dancing Shadows; 3: LO Beaux; 4: Jelly Beans; 5: Buena Fiesta; 6: Mysterious Woman; 7: Chic; 8: It’s Only You; 9: Something New.
Personnel: Pete Barenbregge: alto saxophone (3, 5, 8); Chris Vadala: alto saxophone solo (6, 9), bass and alto flutes (6, 9); Jay Beckenstein: soprano saxophone (4); Rich Sigler: trumpet; Tim Leahey: trumpet; Kevin Burns: flugelhorn; Ben Patterson: trombone; Kevin Cerovich: trombone; Shannon Gunn: trombone; Julio Fernandez: guitar (1, 9); Nir Felder: guitar (5 7); Chieli Minucci: rhythm guitar (2, 4); Ken Navarro: guitar (3, 6); Scott Ambush: contrabass and electric bass; Dick Brewer: piano, Fender Rhodes and Hammond B3, and handclaps; Joe McCarthy: drums set and percussion; Alfredo Mojica: percussion; Jim Robinson: marimba and timpani, and handclaps; Lori Holyskij: vocals (3, 6); The Rosenthals: crowd noise (5).