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Bheki Mseleku Timelessness / January 1, 2019 What’s Old is New

On this first day of 2019 I’d like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. I hope this year brings you more joy than pain, and more victories than defeats. And thank everyone who decided to take a few minutes of their time and drop by the Corner.

Initially, I thought I might review a new (late 2018) album, seeing there is probably not a release in 2019 yet (watch 20 new CDs drop just as this is published). But as I was listening to some of the music I had uploaded to my old school iPod Classic, I kept coming back to this beautiful 1995 Bheki Mseleku CD release, recorded on the Verve label, appropriately titled Timelessness, and I thought that this is the perfect title of an album to do for the first review of the year. Music is a reflection of time, and time is just as integral to music as the notes and the spaces between the notes are, so it makes sense to check out an older CD that sounds as though it could have been recorded last week, and that is why I chose this album.

I have just recently discovered Bheki (and please, no comments saying things like “I can’t believe you just heard of the guy”). There are so many excellent artists out there, and I try to find players that I am not familiar with and who make good music. I figure if I like them, then there are many other people out there who would like then too. I heard one cut off of this Timelessness CD on the radio, (shout out to SiriusXM Real Jazz, and WZUM Pittsburgh), and I had to buy the thing and check out the rest of it; and I am so glad I did.

Bheki was born in South Africa and he played Piano, Sax, Guitar, and he composed and arranged music just as well. He died in 2008, 14 years after he recorded this amazing album. He was only 53 years old upon his death, but he left a legacy of music behind him that still has a broad influence in Africa, Europe, the UK and the U.S. It is evident that his influence is as timeless as this beautiful album is. His playing style is complex and thoughtful, extremely artistic, powerful and fresh. He sounds like he recorded this album yesterday, and not twentyfive years ago. And, when you check out the lineup on this CD, you see that he was well respected by the giants of the America jazz scene too. Talent respects talent. The album lineup reads as follows: Michael Bowie/bass; Marvin “Smitty” Smith drums; the great Abbey Lincoln/vocals on track 5; Kent Jordan/flute on track 4 & 8; Pharoah Sanders/tenor sax on track 6; Joe Henderson/tenor sax track 1; Rodney Kendrick/piano track 7; and none other than Elvin Jones /drums on track 9. With this level of talent, you dare not go wrong (because you can’t), and Bheki hit the mark dead center on this CD.

The first song on the CD is the title track Timelessness. This song features the quartet of Bheki, Henderson, Bowie and Smitty. It’s a straight-ahead cut that jams. Bheki’s piano play is forceful and true, and he leads this quartet in yeoman’s fashion. He exhibits a style that I can describe as dependable and timely and on this cut he puts in a full day’s work. His leadership is clear and true as he not only leads the bandmates here, but he composed and arranged every song on the LP including this one.

On this cut, the outstanding thing you’ll notice is the drum play of Smitty. Marvin “Smitty” Smith is an amazing inspired drummer. He keeps the beat impeccably, but his play is also laced with sophistication and awe-inspiring syncopation. He can easily be placed in the upper echelon of drummers not only in the field but within the broad history of jazz music itself, and, I feel that statement is not one bit of hyperbole. In fact, Bheki dedicates this song to Smitty; that’s the respect he had for this man’s ability, and that respect is well deserved. Smitty’s play undergirds the entire quartet and allows Bheki and Joe Henderson the freedom fly all over the place. The two feed off the drummer into heights of pure improvisational magic. They can do this because their flight is well grounded within the confines of a stellar rhythm section of this supremely tight band. As you listen to Bheki and Joe pontificate upon the theme you can feel them being egged on the smoking hot drum track that Smitty lays down. No drum machine yet designed can do what Smitty does here. This cut is a nine-minute tenor sax/piano symposium played by champions on an album of champions. And this first cut whets your appetite for what lies ahead.

The second cut on the fabulous CD is titled Yukani (Wake Up). On this cut Bheki plays not only the piano, but the tenor and soprano saxes as well. During his day, he often performed playing the piano and sax at the same time. I am not sure if that was the case on this cut, but what I am sure of is that this song is beautiful and inspiring. Here, Bheki reminds me of another of my favorite piano players, McCoy Tyner, and in fact, there is a tribute LP to both of these great two greats performed by an English jazz band named Hexagonal (you can bet I’m doing a review in the near future). Here Bheki uses the expansive chording technique that give Tyner’s music such an epic piano sound, and that’s exactly the effect that Bheki has here. It’s that style of play that seems to take the listeners beyond the here and now and transports them to parts unknown. This song is a journey, and the trip is exotic and awesome. We are transported to Apartheid South Africa, where we not only share in the struggle of the black people of the land, but we also share in the beauty of the natural surroundings. Micheal Bowie’s bass is magical and alive. It seems to transform itself into an instrument from an unknown culture and time; it transports us via feel and emotion in breathless anticipation of what comes next. This album is indeed magical, and one wonders why Bheki didn’t get his due here in the U.S. before he died.

I could write about every cut on this LP, but I don’t want to fatigue the reader, so I’ll jump to cut four C-Ton (Planet Earth). C-Ton begins in a waltz like fashion as the 6/8-time signature whirls around romantically. Kent Jordan’s flute solo is superb on this track. His playing is fresh, articulate and imaginative. He lends to the song a certain air of magic that sweeps the listener away. The effect is on the brink of being other worldly in sound and texture. The quartet of Jordan, Mseleku, Bowie, and Smitty create an interplay that is on par with any quartet in jazz history (I dare say), and the music is a masterpiece. Bheki’s piano solo gives us an insight into his improvisational mind as he scats and sings the notes that his right hand is commanding out of the keys. The sound is almost larger than the quartet, but at the same time it maintains that intimacy that quartets bring to the audience. All the while, Smitty and Bowie not only ground the two front men but lay down that groundwork with virtuosity. They are not just a rhythm section merely holding down the tempo, they add depth and musicality to their essential part in this 10 minute, 29 second epic work of art. It still amazes me that Bheki did not receive greater recognition in America before he died. He obviously was known and appreciated by his jazz musician contemporaries, but his name was not widely known to the general public State side. As so frequently happens, genius is usually not widely recognized until after the artist has passed.

Cut five is the only English speaking vocal number on the LP; its titled Through The Years. This ballad features the inimitable Abby Lincoln doing the vocals. In fact, Abby wrote the lyrics for this song. She is accompanied by a quartet of tenor sax, piano, bass, and drums. Smitty, and Bowie play drum and bass respectively, but the piano and sax are both played by none other than Bheki himself. Here we get a taste of what this multi-talented music master can do on the sax, and as you can hear, he knew a thing or several about the instrument. His playing is warm and full, and he’s not lacking in style or timbre. The voice of his tenor is distinct and full, and was not a novelty at all, but was an essential component of the fullness of the tune. And, once again, if you listen carefully, during the piano solo you can hear Bheki singing the notes that his right hand is playing. I don’t know if he even realized that he was doing it, but it seems as though he was completely wrapped up in his music. Unfortunately, I am not certain whether the track is overdubbed or Bheki is actually playing the sax and piano simultaneously when they are heard together, but whatever the case may be, the two instruments complement one another is expert fashion, and the overall effect makes this song just as haunting as Abby’s lyrics describe. This song rounds out a beautiful album and showcases Abby and Bheki’s command of their respective crafts.

The sixth song on this wonderful album is titled Yanini. This is a happy song, even joyous, and although its in a laid-back jazz style, the joy cannot be hidden or ignored. The song features the great Pharoah Sanders on tenor saxophone, and on this cut near the end, Bheki actually sings out load into the microphone! I don’t actually know what he says, but I do know that he is singing, and he sounds good too. This song has a calypso feel to it; it sounds like the islands; it dips and swings as it plays along in its groove-ful playful style. Pharoah is at his best; his playing marvelously clear and sweet in tone and texture. The song dances along, and it makes the listener want to dance along with it. The song is 11 minuets and 8 seconds long, and it seems to sweep by like a graceful parade. Its never dull or heavy, and the tempo and feel keep your feet tapping. Near the end as the tenor sax and the drums take the listener to the end, Pharoah is at his best. He plays grace notes to Bheki’s singing and the echo effect on his sax lends an organic sound of the island to the graceful dance. Genius in concept and performance, and some of the best music from the era.

Well, as you can probably tell, I could go on talking about this fantastic offering that Mseleku left us, but I’m nearing the limit of what I’m comfortable writing in one article. I could do more about the album in another article, but instead I’ll encourage you to do yourself a favor and listen to the whole thing on your own. I’m sure you, just like me, will be searching for more of Bheki Mseleku’s albums.

I have come to the end of another fun (for me, at least), article, and what’s more, I’ve come to the end of a year of writing (my first full year; we started mid 2017), and the beginning of a new year. I’m sure I’ve enjoyed this way more than you readers might, but I hope you got something out of it too, and I’d like to thank all of you for the time you spent here out of your busy day.

The entire staff of N-Motion Entertainment would like to thank everyone for their patience during the transition period from our old format into this new one. We apologize for the obvious growing pains you endured with us. We are doing and hope to continue doing a lot of exciting things with our platform. We continue to strive to bring you premium entertainment on stage, and on this magazine website. Please feel free to write your feedback in the places provided. Now that we have our new home, it will be much easier for us to reply to your quires and comments. And if you have anyone in mind that you would like us to bring to our fair city (or that you want me to hear and write about), feel free to let us know (no promise, but we will consider all suggestions).

I’d like to personally thank any and all readers of this article. I had a lot of fun doing it, and as strive to continue this endeavor, just know that I write with the reader in mind, and I write about the music I love; Jazz, Smooth Jazz, R & B, and even a little Hip Hop too, so….I’m open to suggestions (of the musical nature).

Let me also say I do not own the rights to any of the music, videos or photos used in this article, but I lean solely upon the Fair Use statute in the law for permission.

Thanks again for stopping by. Please tell your family and friends about the article, and remember,
Next time, “Catch you on The Corner”.

B. B. Suber

I’ve been a jazz lover for quite some time now; nearly as long as I can remember. I’ve always liked jazz in one form or another, and I grew to love it as my palate for music matured throughout the years. One of my earliest memories as a child was my then favorite song; “A Taste of Honey” by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. I heard it on the radio, and I was hooked. I was born in Pittsburgh in 1958, and reared in the Hill District, and back then, WAMO was only an A.M. station (they actually did a remote broadcast from a little store on Webster around the corner from my house), and while Motown was the rave, Stax records, and Soul music was the background music for life in the ghetto (and I lived in the “ghetto”; the Hill District), jazz was a constant undercurrent, a heartbeat of the vibrant life of the slums in which I lived. Until next time.... “Catch You on The Corner”!

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Brian's Corner

Edmar Castaneda Jazz Angel of Columbia South American February 25, 2019

 

On February 2, 2019 the stage of Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (Pittsburgh, PA), was graced with the duo of South American (Columbia), jazz virtuoso musicians Edmar Castaneda/ harp, and Grammy Award Winner Gregoire Maret /harmonica. The banality of the previous sentence cannot begin to convey the explosion of beautiful music these two exceptional musicians shared with a captivated and enchanted audience.

 

The sound that emanated from the electric harp of Edmar was at times ethereal and at other times just down to earth funky, and Gregoire’s harmonica expertly and fluidly accentuated the heights and fancies of the spirited and lively playing that Edmar’s fingertips produced. Edmar can make a harp sing, thump and cry. His emotional range on his instrument is just as wide as his virtuosity is high. He brings out sounds and music that you would never expect a harp to produce, and he emotes in such a marvelous fashion that he can make you feel what he is feeling as he plays. And just as great of a musician as Edmar is, Gregoire is his equal with his “ax” of choice, the harmonica.    The product of the two musicians was amazing beyond description, and after being blown away by their performance, I had to meet the two musicians in person and purchase

Edmar’s latest CD; Edmar Castaneda World Ensemble (Live at the Jazz standard).    Both men were very friendly and Edmar (in his ever preset Kangol style hat) was extremely engaging, and he also was pleased to know that they would be featured on my small corner. Gregoire, on the other hand, spoke very little English so we couldn’t communicate much (especially since my Spanish is probably much worse than his English), although he spoke volumes on stage with his harmonica.

Gregiori Maret

Since I only wore my music fan hat at the Guild concert that night, I did not take notes. At times a person must simply exist and enjoy the music, and that’s exactly what I did, but the album I purchased brought a small sampling of what I witnessed at the concert home with me. The album has only six songs on it, but those six songs are all lengthy (the average length is about 10 minutes), and those six pieces give you an inkling of what the live performance spectacularly delivered. By the way, Edmar is also an accomplished composer as well. Of the six songs, all but one (Carrao Carrao), were composed and arranged by Edmar, and the entire album was produced by him too!

The World Ensemble consisted of six other musicians besides Edmar and Gregoire: Marshall Gilkes/Trombone; Itai Kriss/Flute; Shlomi Cohen/Soprano Sax; Pablo Vergara/Piano; Rodrigo Villlon/Drums; and David Silliman/Percussion. There are also three “special guests” on the album; Andrea Tierra/vocals; Tamer Pinarbasi/Qanun (a middle eastern lute like instrument); and Sergio Krakowski/Pandero (a tambourine like instrument).

The first song on this colorful album is entitled Cuarto De Colores (Room of Colors). From the initial downbeat Edmar jumps in with both feet, or, as I should say, both hands. He pounds out the melody with a ferocious intensity that doesn’t let up for nearly the entire eleven minutes of the tune, and all the bassline you hear is played via the Edmar’s left hand on his harp. It’s startling how much sound and power he produces out of his instrument. When I first heard him play, I did not know what to expect. I had never seen an electric harp, and I anticipated the sound associated with the acoustic version of the instrument; well, I was wrong. Although the sound is very similar, the electric harp produces a harp sound that is on steroids! Its bold and vibrant in a way that is otherworldly. You just do not expect to hear what you’re hearing, and….its great!

Cuarto de Colores is a song that reeks of Columbia and the Latin flavored jazz of the region. The rhythm and flow of the music is indicative of the region from whence Edmar hails. The African influence is a huge part of the music just as the black people of South America make up a large part of the continent’s population. Their influence cannot be denied, but it is instead celebrated within the music, rhythm and dance of the Southern Hemisphere. South America is a large “room of colors” and every color of the heritage of the people of the region manifests itself in the music. This tune exhibits that reality in an energetically superb fashion.

The length of the song also allows space for the song to evolve and transform in complexity of sound and feel. The horn section has a meaty quality to it; they sound loud and large in unison, and as all the musicians are allowed their room to speak during this number, they each add their own flavor to the rhythmic soup, the result is a journey of grand proportions. Itai Kriss’ flute solo is creative and spontaneous. It is balanced and crisp and never becomes laborious. Itai seems to frolic through the measures as he tells his delightful story. He is followed by the virtuoso talent of Gregoire on the harmonica.

Edmar and the Harps!

Although for most Americans the harmonica may evoke thoughts of Stevie wonder or Toots Theilesmens (he of Sesame St. fame), or even Lee Oskar of the band WAR, but Gregoire has a style all his own. He plays in a style that is reminiscent of a guitar player. He approaches each note at times almost as if he were plucking a string. It’s a wonderful effect that adds to the complexity and timbre of the instrument. But he also allows the uniqueness of the harmonica’s qualities to shine through as well. He’s an amazing musician and fills the room with his soul and sound. Percussionist David Sillman exhibits his talents for a few bars, and then as the song winds down with each horn player improvising for a few bars and the song ends as abruptly as is began. This song is amazing from beginning to completion and it never leaves the listener fatigued (but I can’t say the same for any dancers who may try to keep up).

The third song on the CD is entitled Jesus De Nazareth. It’s a beautifully enchanting song that evokes a pacing quiet grace. Edmar is a religious man, and although not in overbearing fashion he does openly acknowledge his Christianity. This beautiful song emotes his faith in a way that words cannot. Its genesis is enigmatic as it quietly builds in dynamics, complexity and urgency. It continues its inexorable march and slowly grows into a heavenly melody of unearthly beauty. This is initially a solo number that displays a certain simplistic complexity that very few solo instruments can pull off; the harp is made for a tune like this.

As the song builds, the listener can hear all the intricacies of the harp. The bassline and melody seem nearly independent of one another; almost as if they were played on separate instruments. At almost exactly six minutes in, the entire band joins in to help tell the story. It’s the Gospel according to Castaneda, and although there are no written words, one can begin to understand what Edmar’s Savior means to him. We can also begin to gain some insight into Edmar’s quiet regal character the he publicly exhibits.

Adrea Tierra

Although not written by Edmar, Carrao Carrao, the fifth song of the CD is a beautiful number that I simply must talk about. A carrao is a beautiful wading bird indigenous to Florida and South America. The lovely voice of Adrea Tierra sings this song which also happens to be the only vocal number on this CD. The eerie beauty of this tune goes hand in hand with the beauty found on this CD itself, and it also lends itself to the beauty of Edmar’s craftmanship on the harp. Andrea sings with and insistent grace that draws you in even if you speak no Spanish. And one thing I found so remarkable is her ability to thrill the double “r” in the Spanish language. I, personally, have never heard anyone thrill those consonants to such an extent. The ability accentuates the beauty and mystery of the song. Andrea has an impeccable voice, with masterful command of her vocal cords, pitch and range. This song exudes mystery intertwined with the call of nature’s beauty. It’s a lovely interlude on an intensely rich album. A “must listen” for any music fan.

The last song on this CD is entitled Zamir Blues. This song is the funkiest tune on the disc. It has a cool steady groove and it keeps you rocking. The song begins with a funky bass intro that Edmar so expertly plays with his right hand on the bass strings of the harp, eventually he begins to explore the improvised melody of the intro with his left, his technique and musicianship as stellar as ever. After the brief solo intro, the percussion and drums set a smoking rhythm to accompany the harp, and usher in the entire band. Edmar continues the bass line which anchors the tune and the groove. After a few bars of nastiness, the entire ensemble enters in and the band erupts into the body of the song.

The World Ensemble.

The number has a familiar tone and quality to it, but the music is new and fresh. The song progresses and Gregoire begins to speak to the crowd with an inspired melodic funky and thoughtful harmonica voice which leaves the listener in awe while being completely entertained. The trombone of Gilkes speaks up next. He pours out his thoughtful sermon in a complete and satisfying fashion. Finally, Edmar enters in again with his solo, and you’re again amazed by the bass hand he displays, but there’s a reason for that too. You see, Edmar’s bass hero is Jaco Pastorius (Edmar even named a song after him), and Edmar has learned a thing or two about how the bass should be played by one of the best bassists ever.

This song has all the elements of a classic, and the one thought that I cannot shake as I contemplate America’s Black History month, and as I listen to not only this song, but the entire album, as well as jazz music from the four corners of the world is just how influential and ubiquitous American Jazz has become, and how it has shaped and defined modern musical language. Jazz is a language that brings people from diverse backgrounds and circumstances together. It’s America’s gift to the World’s musical conversation. A gift that was born in the rough fields of American slavery; a gift that was born out of the African rhythms of drumbeats heard on a distant continent, and a gift that was birthed out of the interpretation of a culture and a music that was foreign to and foisted upon unwilling subjects. This music is a bridge to all of mankind. It can be heard on every continent in the world, and it speaks a universal language that all can understand. Out of adversity emerges supreme beauty.

Well, once again I arrive at the end of another fun adventure. I must apologize for the, as of late, irregular postings. I am doing a lot of research and listening to various artists and I am trying to bring fresh and new (or, should I say, unfamiliar), artists to the conversation. I don’t want to become bored or sound stale as I do what I love, and this it to entertain (I hope) you. I hope to bring many new and extremely good local musicians to light, and (as I do not want to jump the gun and tip my hand), I hope to bring some exciting local musicians to the table, and also continue to write about established artists that I like as well.

Let me do my due diligence and state for the record that I do not own the rights to any music videos or images of artists that appear on this page or in this article. I refer to the “fair use” clause within the law to use this material.

I want to stir up interest, as well as give you a hint of things to come, by letting you know that N-Motion Entertainment will not only continue to bring stellar musicians to the Stage, but we will be doing some exciting work along the lines of some of the events we have done in the past. Tell you family and friends to stop by the “Corner” and read the articles, leave comments, make suggestions, and in the near future, you will be able to take advantage of special offers and discounts available only to readers of this article. We appreciate all of you, and I ‘d like to personally thank any and all of you for stopping by and checking things out.

Well, that’s all for now, and as always, next time “Catch You on the Corner”.

B. B. Suber

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Brian's Corner

Marcos Ariel / “Americas” January 29, 2019 A Taste of the Western Hemisphere

     

    Classically trained Brazilian smooth jazz pianist, multi-instrumentalist, and composer Marcos Ariel has dedicated himself professionally to his art since the mid 1970’s. This album’s release in 2017 demonstrates his masterful ability to not only craft great music, but to also deliver his product with remarkable charm and quiet grace. His music, based upon the “Carioca” style of play indigenous to musicians from his home town of Rio De Janeiro, is tinged with that subtleties of Latin American rhythms and an international timbre that defies categorization. Although much of the album information is difficult to find in North America, (as the album is currently only sold on MP3 format), I can tell you that the album features Jean-Pierre Zanella on saxophone; Paulino Trumpete (sic) on trumpet, and Lula Galvao on guitar. Marcos is responsible for nearly all (if not all), of the composing on the CD, and via his composition style he allots himself a comfortable amount of quiet space (between the notes) to his unhurried and thoughtful piano style. His superb music composition skills compliment his storyteller approach to music magically. He quietly weaves a tale that can be not only heard but felt too. With this album, aptly titled “Americas”, Marcos desired to meld the many influences of the music of the western hemisphere into a beautiful presentation of New World modern jazz, Latin America’s smooth funky rhythms, and smooth jazz to the global musical conversation. He succeeded in that quest epically.

      The first cut on the album is the title track Americas, and it exemplifies Marcos’ desire to meld the music of the two great continents of the Western Hemisphere. The song is smooth and mellow, and it demonstrates the varied influences that Marcos embraces. The steady Carioca undercurrent is intertwined with the smooth jazz groove of North America and the effect is that of pure delicate emotion. It’s a peaceful excursion that takes the listener on a gentle ride; the song seems to speak of the grandeur of the natural beauty that exists in the vast stretches of sparsely populated area of the land while also bringing to mind the people of the hemisphere who give their countries the diverse cultural differences of the various regions. It’s an exotic ride for not just the people to whom this land is foreign, but it’s just as exotic for those who live here too. Sometimes the familiar is too familiar and one loses the sense of awe that newcomers are so keenly aware of. Music like this makes even those who have been on this side of the ocean all their lives sit up and take notice of all there is to appreciate in the natural beauty of the landscape as well as the beauty of the people of which we are all a part of. It’s the freshness of the work that allows us to see this land as Marcos’ musical story telling describes it; a land of immense beauty and multiplied races of beautiful people. “Americas”, the common cradle of the music, the flora and fauna, and the listeners (at least those on this side of the Atlantic Ocean).

      Song two is a continuation of the beautifully mellow mood that Marcos has set in the first cut. The song titled After You Left is a relatively short piece, but its smooth and lovely as it brings about the calm cool ambience of sound and space; a space that is larger than the sum of the individual musical instruments parts being played. The song seems to lull your senses into a place that allows clarity of thought and the letting go of outside noise and clutter. Once again, the music brings the cultural vagaries of the many different nations into the music. It simmers like a slow stew of diverse ingredients on a warm kitchen stove. One can almost smell the delicious dinner being prepared for appreciative guests. The song is grounded by a strong yet subtle bass line (sorry, I could not discover the name of the player). The bass is a demonstration of the North American influence into the international jazz landscape, and although it carries the song, Marcos’ composition skills never allow it to overpower the number; it merely and gracefully augments the mood and character of this beautiful ballad. This song is superb in its simplicity and charm. Marcos’s years of playing and writing are on full display in the most understated and fascinating way imaginable.

    Copacabana Strut, the fourth number on this album, begins with a funky U. S. style bass run that eventually allows the song to morph into a smooth jazz basso-nova track that seems to dance along with the masterful rhythm section. The song combines Marcos’ piano with a smooth jazz organ, and they fill the melody with their cool interplay, all the while the bass keeps this high flying band firmly grounded as it weaves its dance beat into the fray. The smooth quartet of drums, bass, piano and organ form a tight grooving ensemble that cha-chas with the number being played. The piano seems to plead it case and it urges the listeners to get up on their feet. It’s a mellow number, but at the same time it begs the listener to dance; just like so much of the music of not only this region, but world music in general. That is the thing about music; it and dance go together like hand in glove and to ignore that reality takes away the humanity of it all. Dance cannot be ignored; our bodies just won’t allow it; and the music of the Americas screams this reality, even in a seemingly quiet tune such as this one.

    With track seven Marcos pay homage to his home town of Rio. The song is titled Ipanema Sunset. Ipanema is a southern neighborhood of Rio de Janiero. It’s now famous for the song “The Girl from Ipanema” of course, and this song is the offspring of the mood of that now famous place. The song begins with an almost sleepy trumpet intro which is immediately followed by a cool samba beat and the articulated playing of Marcos on the piano. Marcos’ playing is fantastic, and his play is bolstered by the fantastic play of the bassist (whomever he or she may be). The trumpet play of Pauliho is remarkable. It’s understated, but at the same time complex in tenor and feel. Marcos uses a simple solo to keep his story light and mobile. It’s not bogged down with heady articulation, but instead uses simplicity to tell its magical tale. This song is one of the highlights of a highlight filled CD. One can almost see and feel the sun setting on the ocean of the beautiful Ipanema beach as the twilight seems to invite an evening of fun and frivolity. It’s a nice getaway for any vacationer; a place where we’d all love to visit and would never want to leave. And, less I forget, one of the most indispensable and incredible aspects of this song is (as it is with most if not all of the music from this region), the percussion play. The percussionist is absolutely amazing. He (or she), keeps the beat in an interesting, fresh and hip moving fashion. The percussionist alone makes you want to dance. The song would not be what it is without that individual; remarkably stellar play by whomever that person may be (again, I apologize for the lack of information in this aspect).

    Song nine Canto Afro may well be the funkiest song on the entire CD. Marcos leads the band on the intro; a heralding three cord statement that sets the funky tone which resonates for the entire song. But it’s the sax that takes center stage on this one. At times the play is reminiscent of Coltrane, and at others its reminiscent of Grover or Eddie Baucus Jr. But whomever you want to compare it to the man is funky. The song is compelling and grooveful. It has an air of the heyday of the jazz fusion era; the late seventies or early eighties. It grooves from beginning to end, and the sax cries and at time screams its grooving voice. The feel and mood are accentuated by the soulful play of the bass and drums which not only ground the tune but keep the ball bouncing along. Although the song is less than four minutes long the players tell a complete story within the allotted time. When it ends you are not disappointed (although I’m sure this song is longer when played live because it grooves so hard), but instead you are satisfied because you have the complete meal; the entire course has been run, and the ending is simply the finish of something great, and you know there is more to follow.

    The last piece on the album is the bouncy tune titled Samba in Lapa. The organ is centerpiece on this dance cut. This song tidies up all the loose ends of the Americas with this album. It dances in harmony with all this album attempts to encompass; The feel is lovely and warm, and it urges all to give into the groove of the moment. The organ solo is masterful. The syncopation and counterpoint that the organist uses to drive the dance feel is breezy, light and it is relentless in it’s cry to bring all to the dance-floor. Rio is for vacationers and revelers, and this song exemplifies that characterization of the region. The song is a vacation that you never want to end, and alas, its only four minutes and sixteen seconds long. This song accentuates the concept of this entire album. It’s an excursion into the realm of the Western Hemisphere, particularly the South American region. The sound beacons us to explore and enjoy, if only for a few moments, the allure of the Americas; all of the Americas. It’s an excellently performed offering, and a great introduction to an amazing veteran jazz/smooth jazz artist.

    Well, before I get accused of being long-winded, I’d like to take this time to thank any and all of you for dropping by the Corner and checking us out. I appreciate your time and I hope I brought a little levity and fun into your day. I love checking out new and interesting artists, and I love sharing and writing about them with you even more. It really is a privilege and an honor. I also want to take this time to state that “I do not own the rights to any music or video that I have used in this article. I would refer anyone who is interested in my use thereof to the “Fair Use” clause of the law”.

    Now that that is out of the way, please feel free to leave us any feedback or comments in the space provided, and as things settle with the new site, we promise to get back to you. Also, please tell your family and friends about us. We’d love for them to join us here too, and if there are any albums, acts or bands you’d like us to check out, drop us a line in the comment section as well. And since I mentioned “video”, I’d like to share this link to a video of Marcos showing off his jazz chops while playing the famous song Girl From Ipanema. Yeah, the man can play straight jazz too!

You can find all of Marcos Ariel’s music on the NMoJazz search engine. 

    Well, that’s all for now. Thanks again for dropping by, and as always, next time “Catch You On The Corner”.

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