Of Body, Mind and Heart
By Brian Arsenault
Salsa De La Bahia: (Patois Records)
A Collection of SF Bay Area Salsa and Latin Jazz
Maybe this remarkable album should be reviewed by a Spanish speaker. But maybe not. The music is universal even if you dance like an awkward gringo (present) or don’t dance at all (yeah).
Sitting down is not really possible for this two disc album from the Salsa scene in San Francisco. You may even find some hidden rhythm in your yankee bones, if that‘s what you have. Joy is also universal.
Who knew there was even a Salsa scene in the Bay Area. Not this writer in the far northeast.
The album notes say that is partly because so much of the music was released on indie labels.
That’s a reality of much of the music scene these days. Albums are easier to make because of digital technology and independent recordings are many. Problem is, indie distribution lacks the power of national and international labels and much goes unnoticed in the larger world. But at least it gets made.
Still, low level distribution is a pity on many levels. Not the least of which is the tendency to think of Latin jazz and dance music as mostly based in Miami, say hello to my little friend, and New York, where there are large Caribbean populations.
Of course, there’s also the political problem of keeping Cuba isolated from the States as if some kind of pretending the Commies aren’t there will make it so in the hemisphere. Monroe Doctrine perversity.
But never mind that. Get these two discs and play them loud. You will feel better. I know you will. There’s a bunch of bands and a simply glorious feeling. And after a while, you might even begin singing in Spanish.
Much of the credit goes to trombonist/arranger Wayne Wallace who sounds a lot more like a Scot than a Cuban. So I don’t feel so bad.
The album will be followed by a documentary film, The Last Mambo, next Spring.
Nourishments (Clean Feed Records)
Mark Dresser Quintet
I really wasn’t sure I liked this album at first but I couldn’t stop listening. Something intriguing, original, creative. Nourishing even.
It was track 2, “Canales Rose” (more Bay Area connection), that really got me. Michael Dessen’s trombone opens like an Ellington blues number. Then comes Rudresh Mahanthappa’s also saxophone — you really need to hear this guy play.
The two play solos and then together like some kind of demonic Kinda Blue. Much of this album has a dark dream quality. In large part because always, always there is Dresser’s double bass underneath.
It’s sometimes hard to follow ala Monk or Mingus but it comes back to you to entrance. The music wants to take you to different places but it doesn’t want to lose you.
I just can’t get over Dessen’s trombone amidst it all. So rounded. So rich.
His sound particularly stirs images of a late ’40s black and white movie. Maybe Bogie is walking in the door. Or a ‘50s French film about the end of an affair. Evocative is the reviewer’s oft used word, but it works here.
Fred Fried and Core Bacharach (Fred Fried and Core)
If I put these albums in the order of personal favorite, Fred Fried’s acoustic power trio on Core Bacharach would come first.
You’ll hear Burt Bacharach tunes as you know them — and don’t we all know them. At the start anyway.
Then they flow through Fried’s “prism” as he puts it. Burt never lost but pondered, explored, expanded.
All the poignancy of the songs is there without the lyrics. They aren’t needed. Fried “sings” all the meaning.
Fried plays eight string guitar with an extra string at both the low and high ends to give him greater range. He also plays his guitar nearly vertical without strap just because it feels right.
Michael Lavoie on bass and Miki Matsuki on drums provide such balance that they seem his co-conspirators not his rhythm section.
At times, Fried and Lavoie are seemingly trading leads. Seems strange to make the comparison but I haven’t heard anything quite like it, however different, since Clapton and Jack Bruce. Does that mean Miki has to be Baker? She looks too calm and kind for that.
Fried lives on Cape Cod. That makes him practically a neighbor. I’ll have to see if I can find out when he’s playing nearby.
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To read more posts, reviews and columns by Brian Arsenault click HERE.