Bill O'Connell's been around the block many times, has gotten to know its denizens quite well, and of course is very well known by them. That's how he came to play with and arrange for cats like Mongo Santamaria, Dave Valentin, Gato Barbieri, and the Fort Apache Band among many others. In The Latin Jazz All-Stars, he pulled in Steve Slagle (sax) and Conrad Herwig (trombone) as very tasty soloists and as a great grooving duet beside the percussive pairing of Adam Cruz (drums) and Richie Flores (percussion), the energetic Luques Curtis rearing up on bass. The result is a very satisfying collision of trad NorthAm and trad SouthAm jazz styles.
O'Connell of course gets in tons of solos, and I'm saying you should start the disc with the Zócalo title track in order to dig right into the swingin' upstyle he takes, here replete with some Impulse era Jarretty inventions and patterns before dropping into an incredibly infectious ostinato motif. The balladic For All We Know, though, clearly shows his lyrical prowess in an alternatingly friendly, austere, and wistful narrative flow. Nothing but the Truth jumps into speedy bop but modally explores a welter of conflations, an arresting potpourri that lets you know you can't nail Bill's style down to any single reference.
Slagle, on alto and soprano, gets the lion's share of solos after O'Connell and goes far with them, but the manner in which O'Connell follows him up (check out 21st Century Blues as one example) is often arresting, developing the thematics and variations even further rather than segueing into his own thoughts. All the while Cruz and Flores keep rock steady beats, Curtis expanding the mid-ground colorations and temperaments. When all's said and done, you might be a little dizzied by the labyrinthine articulations, shifting voices, and myriad constructions, and at a loss for an adjective to capture it all, so let me suggest one: consummate.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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