Rumba has sonic and compositional aspects that are, to my ears anyway, fairly distinct from samba and other Latinate modes. This is made quite clear in Paul Carlson's La Rumba is a Lovesome Thing on the Zoho label. I hear quite a bit of ranchera and meringue in it, as the style bases more populistically than others. The term, after all, is a colloquialization of the Cubano 'rumbo', which translates in the American tongue as 'party' or 'spree'. I mean, hell, you can't get much more ground level than ranchera, a form that arose troubadorically in solo performance before it melded with mariachi and became norteno and banda in Mexico. In Carlon's work, Euro and world jazz make their way into the mix, not to mention a highly polished intelligence importing even classicalism (After All). Interestingly, though, La Rumba is actually a tribute to Billy Strayhorn, and this nicely explains all the uptown forays into night atmospheres in the disc.
Thank God Carlon imported copious intrusions of trombone, as that instrument has come in for a beating in modern musics, presently primarily in resurrections of big band days. That's fine, but why it's been absented from abstract works and such, I have no clue, as the slippery 'bone is perfect for such milieux and indexes so damn sweetly with trumpet and sax. Carlon himself is a rather slippery saxist as well, very fluid and chameleonic, so his sympathies are apprehendable the minute one listens to the CD. His solo lines are graceful as hell but with an energetic liquid bop that immediate rivets the attention as feet trace across the dance floor.
John Stenger's piano work moves between a serialism repeating delicious Latin patterns propulsively in the midground, then chordal accompaniments, and finally in soloing that cools the top end of the mix while adding significantly to the conversation. It also anchors things back to Harlem and the sophistications that were occurring in Strayhorn's day. As the CD liner claims, La Rumba fantasizes Billy and his compeer Duke Ellington as though they were "born in Havana" and took to romping all over the place. The intro to Tonk even sounds as though it were taken from a much hipper version of Disney's Mary Poppins, as do various passages unfolding as the composition progresses. There's a hell of a lot of spark and spangle here amid very earthy baselines, so come prepared to dance, drink, and find the king's portion of delight as Carlon & Co. make the summer all the more smilingly hedonistic at a time when we need it the most.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles