The Afro Bop Alliance starts things off deep into da funk with Tom Baldwin's zesty The Jinx, a cut that'll either sit you straight up, hand firmly on Mai Tai, or else jump yer keister onto the dance floor. Straight off the top, Joe McCarthy's a hellacious drummer and has to be, because he's a one-man percussion unit in a music mode that very frequently relies on several. From what I can surmise in the listening, he also has six arms. Throughout Jinx, the gent's punctuation and emphatics fill up all the corners not taken by the three brass players (Luis Hernandez, Vince Norman, Tim Stanley) and pianist (Harry Appelmen). Hand percussionist Robert Quintero, however, joins him late in the song and then in other cuts. Nonetheless, McCarthy's work is superlative every moment of Angel Eyes.
Baldwin also wrote the swingin' Ziggy the Crooner, featuring new member Vic Provost and his steel pans, bringing the Andy Narell sound back to jazz once more. Then Provost joined Tom in writing duties, providing three numbers, keeping the trademark Afro-Bop groove going, Homanaje a jungley romp ushering Paquito D'Rivera in on clarinet, forcing the question: "Why don't more ensembles feature the two axes together?", 'cause, man, they fit really really well. Doesn't hurt either, that McCarthy and Quintero are at their peripatetic best alongside D'Rivera, companioning horns carrying the melody line into clouds and sunlight as everyone jams away.
Horace Silver's enjoying a renaissance among musicians lately, and Afro-Bop covers his Barbara before ducking into Eden Ahbez's Nature Boy, also recently of particular universal appeal, here with Sara Jones providing seductive vocals, Appelman inserting a delicate middle eight solo on the keys as the St. Clair Chamber Strings dub in atmospherics, the horn section again a happy adjunct. For the coup de grace, then, can you guess what label this is on? That's right: the endlessly amazing Zoho. How could it possibly be otherwise? For the other CD they shunted off to FAME and into my eager hands, catch The Miami Jazz Project's debut (here), but if you're in the mood for a disc halfway between hi-toned nighclub antics and cinematics, Angel Eyes is what you're after.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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