Here is a truly special compendium of charts that pays homage to the human flow of sound and silence while employing in a most ingenious manner all of the elements, such as accent, meter and tempo—which relate to the forward movement of music—as few other Big Bands can compare in style and substance. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has two interesting explanations or meanings of the word, “rhythm”. The first is this: “an ordered recurrent alternation of strong and weak elements in the flow of sound and silence in speech.” The second goes thus: “the aspect of music combining all the elements (as accent, meter and tempo) that relate to forward movement.” There is a reason why both meanings are important in relation to appreciating the glorious sound of ¡Ritmo! the album by The Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Big Band (Directed by Brent Fischer) and it is this: Here is a truly special compendium of charts that pays homage to the human flow of sound and silence while employing in a most ingenious manner all of the elements, such as accent, meter and tempo—which relate to the forward movement of music—as few other Big Bands can compare in style and substance. Dr. Fischer’s music carves the air in wide arcs and sublime parabolas, fumbling, as if the musicians were frolicking in some mythical universe, worshiping at the feet of a pantheon of Muses. Trumpets and trombones leap magically from one elevated plane to the next with bronzed inflection; bass and keyboards vamp excitedly when called upon to, egging the melodic instruments on while a myriad of percussion push the music ever forward into stratospheric realms; all combining together to occupy the silence with exquisite sound.
Dr. Fischer learned from the best: Igor Stravinsky, Dmitri Shostakovich, Bela Bartok and Alban Berg; Duke Ellington and Gil Evans; Cal Tjader, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Moacir Santos. But the sound of his music is singular and majestic with a self-expression that knows no boundaries. This is evident from the opening bars of “San Francisco P.M.” a chart that is born of a piano montuno and grows to a great mambo with guitars, keyboards and roistering percussion. Clave pure as crystal is at the heart of the hip and funky chart that is called by the coined name, “Funquiado,” which spins on the heat of the trumpet and all of the other instruments that gambol and frolic at the hypnotic urging of congas, timbales and drums. “Canonic Passacaglia, Blues & Vamp ‘Til Ready” is a true classic, which begins with an authentic quadruple Latin canon and continues through as a triple canon in which instruments—especially brass and woodwinds—are layered with majestic grandeur as the music tumbles through a myriad grooves from raw Latin to the softest of Bossa Nova. “Machaca” comes from the songbook of Dr. Fischer’s older grooving ensemble, Clare Fischer and Salsa Picante. As to “Rainforest,” the chart is reminiscent of the fact that Dr. Fischer was mystically healed in the rhythms of Brazil and the rich elements of harmony in this classic chart pay homage to that part of the musician’s muse. “Guarabe” is another fine example of the gorgeous style with which Clare Fischer employs harmonies as well as how effectively the musician can rock the salsa beat. “The Quiet Side,” once a small ensemble chart is now showcased in a Big Band version and shines with exciting writing and plush arrangements. “Pavilion” is a gathering storm of roaring brass and winds that wind down to whispering near-silences and this can only be described as a monumental chart. After the celebrated music that rises and falls in rhythm moving ever forward, the “Vamp ‘Til Ready (Remix)” can only be described as an exquisite closing to an album that offers an embarrassment of musical riches by one of the iconic musicians of these times.
The Clare Fischer has his son and pre-eminent bassist and arranger in his own right, Brent Fischer directing this magnificent musical sojourn is a matter of pure inspiration. The younger Fischer is best qualified to interpret his father’s works and between the two musicians they present a classic album with some of the finest musicians. The percussion artistry is led by the great Peruvian colorist, Alex Acuña, with strategic guest spots occupied by the maestros, Peter Erskine and Poncho Sánchez. Guitarist Steve Khan also shines on “San Francisco P. M.” Alan Pasqua and Quinn Johnson are inspired choices as are the brass-men: Ron Stout, Steve Huffsteter and Bill Reichenbach. It would be remiss if the other members of the ensemble did not receive honourable mention as well, but they are too many to name and have already been given credit in the personnel credit section of this review. Suffice it to say that this album is going to be one of the most celebrated Big Band records for many years to come and it is a combination of great music played by virtuoso musicians that made it all possible. Not the least is the music rearranged by Clare Fischer and directed by Brent Fischer, the man who possibly knows it as well as its creator.
Tracks: San Francisco P.M.; Funquiado; Canonic Passacaglia, Blues & Vamp ‘Til Ready; Machaca; Rainforest; Guarabe; The Quiet Side; Pavilion; Vamp ‘Til Ready (Remix).
Personnel: Dr. Clare Fischer: all compositions, arrangements, keyboards (except where noted); Brent Fischer: conductor, composer, arranger (1, 5), electric basses, vibraphone, marimba, auxiliary keyboards, rainstick; Poncho Sánchez: congas (1); Alex Acuña: drums (1, 5, 7), all percussion (except where noted); Luis Conte: timbales, maracas, bongos, campana (1); Peter Erskine: drums (3, 9); Steve Kahn: electric guitar (1); Alan Pasqua: synthesizer solo (9); Quinn Johnson: keyboards (1, 5, 7); Alan Steinberger: keyboards (3, 9); Matt Brownlie: electric guitar (9); Don Shelton: soprano and alto saxophones, clarinet, flute; Rob Hardt: soprano, alto and tenor saxophones, flute; Alex Budman: alto saxophone, clarinet, flute; Jeff Driskill: tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute, alto flute; Sean Franz: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, flute; Glenn Morrissette: tenor saxophone; Lee Callet: baritone saxophone, clarinet, flute, alto flute; Bob Carr: bass saxophone, contrabass clarinet, flute; John Mitchell: bass saxophone (1); Rob Schaer: trumpet; Pete de Siena: trumpet; Ron Stout: trumpet; Carl Saunders: trumpet; Steve Huffsteter: trumpet; Jon Lewis: trumpet (5); James Blackwell: trumpet (1); Brian Mantz: trumpet (1), Josh Aguiar: trumpet (1); Michael Stever: trumpet (3, 9); Charlie Loper: trombone, tuba; Andy Martin: trombone, tuba; Scott Whitfeld: trombone, tuba; Jacques Voyemant: trombone, tuba; Francisco Torres: trombone, tuba (1); Mariel Austin: trombone (1); Charlie Morillas: trombone, tuba (3, 9); Steve Hughes: bass trombone, tuba; Bill Reichenbach: bass trombone; Jim Self: tuba (7).