by: Hobart Taylor
Manhattan Camerata - Tango Fado Project - (Social Media Records)
The Manhattan Camerata call themselves "Transclassical", that is bringing the discipline of classical compositional and arrangement techniques to musics from Argentina, Portugal, and other world musics. To my ear their hybrid has morphed into something new, like Darius Milhaud's "Le Boeuf sur le Toi", (The Bull on the Roof), which took Brazilian music, filtered it through classicism, and poof out comes jazz.
This musical alchemy is mainly the product of composers Pedro H. de Silva and Lucia Caruso. The Fados, (Portuguese songs of lamentation and reflection) are more traditional and well executed, but for me the heart of the project are the Tangos. Both the original work and the re-interpretations of the tunes of Tango master Astor Piazolla are masterful and deeply moving.
Ismael East Carlo/Bobby Matos - Provocateur - (Cafe con Bagels Records)
Carlo is an actor, and here his dramatic readings, poems really, but also impassioned calls to action, (whether to dance, feel, think, or let go,) are cogently married to the grand Latin jazz of percussionist/composer Bobby Matos. There is Afro Cuban music at the core of the project, but other influences abound, and the cultural references in the poems and chants "take you to a better place".
Paul Yonemura - Coming Back Home - (Girod Records)
Bay area drummer Yonemura dug back in the vaults for recordings made between 1988 and 1994 and I'm glad he did. Working with pianists Rick Helzer (composer on most of the tunes) and Frank Martin as well as bass players Dave Dunaway and John Lauffenburger in the trio format, Yonemura's project is loaded with a plethora of melodic gems. Helzer's "Mile's Tones", "Blue Sphere" and the modal delight "Re-Connecting" float my boat, and Frank Martin's Latin infused tune "Sampaquita" barreling along at 100 miles an hour blew me away.
Pram Trio - Saga Thirteen - (Self Released)
The Toronto scene is so fresh and individualistic perhaps because artists aren't scrambling to compromise in search of specific audiences. Government and community support for the arts seems to foster relaxed creativity for young musicians there and I think it can be heard in this music. Pianist, Jack Bodkin, drummer Eric West, and on double bass Mark Godfrey, write melodies that could be folk or mid tempo rock hits , and in the Charlie Haden tradition, they bring improvisational craft and jazz transformation, modulations, and elisions the project elevating it to a sublime ethereal realm.