Leon Lee Dorsey once enjoyed the company of the celebrated [late] pianist Hilton Ruiz, playing in one of the last ensembles the incomparable pianist brought together. Now, on Freedom Jazz Dance he brings his virtuoso low bass throbbings and gets together with long-time rhythm partner and drummer Mike Clark, and he offers the hot seat to masterful pianist Manuel Valera – all of this to pay homage to Mr Ruiz, probably his most consequential bandleader.
The album features beautifully crafted arrangements of beguiling variety and sensuousness. The repertoire comprises three originals by the bassist, three standards including the opening song on the album, “Freedom Jazz Dance” by the inimitable Eddie Harris, “How Insensitive” by Tom Jobim and Joseph Kosma’s “Autumn Leaves”, which begins by evoking a pulsating guaguancó before flying into a swinging groove. Mr Dorsey’s chosen material also includes “New Arrival”, which Mr Ruiz made famous when he played it as part of Tito Puente’s ensemble in Fernando Trueba’s seminal Latin-Jazz documentary, Calle 54.
One of the album’s revelations is the fact that Mr Dorsey emerges as a savvy, sensitive composer with a keen ear, an innate sense of form and a generous dash of pure, elegant spirit. His work – especially on the beguiling “Baptism” is meticulously structured, combining tonal and non-tonal elements into a glorious fusion. Best of all is Mr Dorsey’s playing, highlighted how he sculpts the long-limbed harmonies on “Until the End of Time” and “Chillin’”
Pianist Manuel Valera‘s playing is inspired and – at times – even audacious. The two works by Mr Ruiz are played with intoxicating style and Mr Valera also invokes the spirit of the late pianist as he traverses both his iconic works in a seductively swaggering manner that is completely his [Mr Valera’s] own. The drummer, Mr Clark navigates the material with his own, inimitably long-limbed styling and makes for a perfect foil to Mr Dorsey’s deep and big-boned gravitas bends and shapes notes with remarkable ingenuity.
The compelling writing and exquisite performance throughout this session makes for an utterly memorable album.
Track list – 1: Freedom Jazz Dance; 2: Baptism; 3: Home Cookin’; 4: Until the End of Time; 5: Autumn Leaves; 6: How Insensitive; 7: New Arrival; 8: Chillin’
Personnel – Manuel Valera: piano; Leon Lee Dorsey: bass; Mike Clark: drums
Released – 2021
Label – JazzAvenue 1 Records
Runtime – 42:42