Charlie Sepúlveda & The Turnaround: This is Latin Jazz

This music by Charlie Sepúlveda has the indelible stamp of the Afro-Caribbean rhythms that makes the music he plays unique unto himself – just as it did to legends such as Machito and Mario Bauzá, or Charlie and Eddie Palmieri, or Tito Puente, to name just a few musicians who have contributed enormously to making the music the force that is today. But in playing the way that he does throughout this repertoire he sends a clear message that his own enunciation of the idiom has grown to an extraordinary level so much so that it is marked by a depth; a gravitas that sets him apart from the tribe of contemporary trumpeters who continue to explore and expand the rhythmic idiom.

Afro-Caribbean trumpeters [and trumpeters who purport to play music in this idiom] are typically loud and often rambunctious. But Mr Sepúlveda is unique in that he almost always eschews such affectations and posturizing – unless a particular song narrative demands playing at high volume. This does not mean to say that he sounds effete in any sort of way. Rather that his playing – while being forthright, with brass bell pointed directly at the heavens – is miraculously melodious and songful.

This speaks volumes about his musicianship, which may be described as entirely honest and sublimely eloquent in every sense of the words. To get a measure of what this means in all its musical glory, one simply needs to immerse oneself in the mystical beauty of “Estampas”, a balletic wonder that relocates the composer and performer’s visual memories to the diaphanously unfolding landscape of music.

That song – an exquisite bolero, no less – is the shining apogee of this recording and it glimmers in the performances of all the musicians who contribute to it. The arrangement is aglow with gliding counterpoint and the multiple layers of communication between musicians – melodic and harmonic lines as well as rhythmic metre is one of the finest examples of ensemble-playing that you can hope to hear anywhere on stage or on record in a rather long time. Meanwhile “Estampas” is far from being the only exquisite song on this breezy album.

Natalia Mercado delivers a fiery-lustrous, seductive, and riveting performance on “Alfonsina y el Mar”, which is every bit the twin pinnacle of the album. She is, however, far from being the only stellar musician to make a significant contribution to this album – and neither, for that matter are the members of The Turnaround the only ones to shine. Inspired guests – Randy Brecker, Steve Turre, Nestor Torrés and Miguel Zenón are exquisite when they are called upon to play. This is easily one of the finest recordings by a trumpeter during this bizarre and stultifying year and that is cause for a loud and rambunctious “Hurrah!”

Track list – 1: Liberty; 2: Tales from the Wall; 3: Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White; 4: Alfonsina y el Mar; 5: Frenesi; 6: Estampas; 7: Firm Roots; 8: Peer Magic

Personnel – Charlie Sepúlveda: leader and trumpet; Norberto Ortiz: tenor saxophone [1 – 3, 5 – 8]; Eduardo Zayas: piano; Gabriel Rodríguez: bass; Francisco Alcalá: drums; Nicholas Cosaboom: congas [1 – 4, 5 – 8]. Special Guests – Randy Brecker: trumpet [1]; Natalia Mercado: vocals [4]; Nestor Torrés: flute [3, 8]; Steve Turre: trombone [2, 7]; Miguel Zenón: alto saxophone [5].

Released – 2021
Label – HighNote Records [HCD 7331]
Runtime – 1:05:57

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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