FAME Review: Bill O'Connell & The Latin Jazz All-Stars - Imagine
Bill O'Connell & The Latin Jazz All-Stars - Imagine


Bill O'Connell & The Latin Jazz All-Stars

Savant Records - SCD 2145

Available from Amazon.com.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Bill O'Connell's latin jazz is the kind Gil Evans would've written and arranged, had that been his particular wont, as Bill has the same high degree of adventurousness Gil possessed. Within the nine lengthy cuts to Imagine (yep, titled after the Lennon song), he grants huge swaths of soloing spaces above a gamboling rhythm section, within which the chops never for a moment cease. Don't for a second think you're going to get that N.Y. Times crossword puzzle done or be able to relax in your cool-ass overstuffed La-Z-Boy recliner because when the very first cut, the swingin' Optimism, foxtrots its way out the speakers, the neighbors will be breaking down the door and sashaying around the living room. Then, as Stepping Stones breathlessly tumbles after it, well, good luck getting any sleep tonight.

The arrangement for Imagine is a pensively hip ballad—initially at least, anyway—letting all and sundry catch their breath while still tapping toes, vodka and Becks Drafts making their way among your newfound celebrants. Beware the purists, though, 'cause they might just lose their sedentary minds at how Bill and the band tear Lennon's signature apart. Make sure such errant souls get doubles of anything with alcohol in it 'n put them leettle umbrellas in every glass; should soothe 'em a mite. But things eventually rev up, and it's back to the conga line. Throughout the CD, O'Connell plays a great set of keys and invited Steve Slagle (saxes) and Conrad Herwig (trombone) in for horn duties, the which they were only too ready to jump on.

Shaman's Dance is an atmospheric but energetic fusion song, great percussives rendered by The Two Richies: Barshay and Flores, as Luques Curtis plies away at his bass (Herbie was so impressed with the cat that he invited him to sit down for a while and groove Hancock-style), offsetting and then complementing O'Connell's angularities. The horns back out and let the four go to it in pure savantry, then re-enter to thicken everything up. Bill's take on Willow Weep for Me warps the wistful paean into a boppin' jump-up, replete with finger-snapping and head nodding (which, of course, you, dear listener, will be supplying; don't worry 'bout whether you want to or not, it'll just happen). The closer, Whitecaps starts out like a lost cut from West Side Story but mixes things up in several modes, taking off for the hinterlands. Feeling exploratory? The map's right here.

Track List:

  • Optimism
  • Stepping Stones
  • Imagine (J. Lennon)
  • Shaman's Dance
  • Missing Mr. Berrios
  • Jigsaw
  • 25 Years
  • Willow Weep for Me (A. Ronell)
  • Whitecaps
All songs written by Bill O'Connell except as noted.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2015, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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