Algo Más (Jazzheads JH 1148, 2005)
Mark Weinstein isn’t likely to be the first name on anyone’s list of Latin jazz legends. Still, his 1967 album Cuban Roots did much to reunite Latin jazz with the deep, unfiltered Afro-Cuban drum rhythms that gave rise to it two decades earlier. At the time, Weinstein was a trombonist and composer with an adventurous creative streak. By the mid-’70s he’d forsaken the trombone for the flute, though his pursuits for the next 20 years or so were more academic than musical. Today he’s a university professor who, lucky for us, still finds time to make music. And what stunning, spine-tingling music it is.
Algo Más (Something More) features Weinstein on soprano, alto and bass flutes, joined by percussionist/vocalist Pedro Martínez, electric guitarist Jean-Paul Bourelly, acoustic bassist Santi Debriano and percussionists Nani Santiago, Gene Golden and Skip Burney for an hour of exhilarating, mesmerizing sounds that are part Latin jam, part praise session for the African deities who figure prominently in much Afro-Latin traditional music and part musical conversation in which the players speak the same language with flawless fluency.
The guitar has never been a staple instrument in Latin jazz, but it’s the first sound heard here. Bourelly begins “Ellegua Abierto” (an ode to the Yoruba god of the crossroads) with wispy, almost offhanded soloing. Out of nowhere, Martínez breaks in with a vocal chant and it’s pure magic from there to the end of the disc.
The percussionists create a wall of intricate, shifting beats, a perfect atmosphere in which the guitar, bass, flutes and vocals feed into and off of one another, sometimes all together but frequently in solo sections that allow for some amazingly symbiotic excursions of sound.
It’s difficult to describe the sort of euphoria this album brings about. It soothes and caresses but cooks as well. And in a way it takes Latin jazz to where it’s always been and to where it’s never been, combining timeless rhythms and extemporaneous spirit like nothing else. Absolutely indispensable for Latin jazz aficionados, very highly recommended for all others.
Buy Algo Más
Author: Tom Orr
Tom Orr is a California-based writer whose talent and mental stability are of an equally questionable nature. His hobbies include ignoring trends, striking dramatic poses in front of his ever-tolerant wife and watching helplessly as his kids surpass him in all desirable traits.