Clave Gringa? In Spanish, 'clave' variously means 'code', 'key', 'clef', and 'style'—as well as being a two-stick percussive instrument—while 'gringa' is the feminine case of a Spanish derogation in reference to English-speaking cultures, so I'm thinking the playful phrase refers to a female-dominated style or band, but it's really a four-man latinate ensemble based in Seattle which here showcases the work and playing of pianist-composer Ann Reynolds, a talented keyboardist who reminds me quite a bit of Laura Dubin (here) because her tone is always light yet spirited, evocative of sunny days and festive ways but never simplistic or cliché.
Edsson Otero and Ernesto Pediango handle the percussives while Ben Verdier wields bass guitar, Daniel Barry on trumpet and flugelhorn in front of the quartet, but one must take care in how one states that, as percussives are always key (hmmm……clave!) in latin modes, accounting for a lot more than rhythm section duties. Regardless, the two stand-outs are Reynolds and Barry, and the latter handles his brass instruments adroitly, always on the energetic top side of things while Reynolds is good deal more… 'contemplative' would likely be the best adjective, I think. Barry plays more clearly from heart and gut, as trumpeters oft do, while Reynolds combines heart with mind, the contrasts within the offsets (gut, mind) working beautifully.
Most of the CD is instrumental with a bit of vocal presence here and there (melodious voice gratis Makala Wengelewski), chiefly Cubano-based but with cha cha, bolero, and other elements as well. Emergence, a piano/bongos duet, is highly reminiscent of something Chick Corea would've experimented with as he passed from prime early period into a mid-point just before Return to Forever. The closing La Amistad stands as a cool afternoon danzon at an outdoor cafe with tea and churros, almost a populist street chamber exposition, and the provocatively titled Fun-Que, which can be read several ways, is refined funk latino taking the Black/White idiom south of the border, shorn of its heavy elements and brocaded, not so much funk as modern jazz subtly importing extraneous notions…all of which should let you know that there's a variety of stylistics cropping up everywhere in this disc.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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