David Murray Cuban Ensemble Plays Nat King Cole (Motema 2011)
Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 7:12PM
Janine Santana

David Murray Cuban Ensemble Plays Nat King Cole (Motema 2011)

January 27, 2012 

Review written by: Janine Santana -

Nat King Cole’s Latin influenced recordings of 1958 and 1962 were performed in both Spanish and Portuguese. Cole spoke neither, but sang the lyrics phonetically, maintaining his signature phrasing style. Although it sounded odd to native Spanish and Portuguese speakers, his obvious affection for the songs beloved world-wide by Latinos was accepted as it opened the door to a new audience for the music. To be honest, Cole’s versions of the songs my parents loved and I grew up listening to were not my favorite versions, although I am fond of Cole’s other offerings. What I admire about the work is his verve. Not one to be threatened by cultural barriers and willing to step up to the plate to create and explore cultural music, Cole put his unique stamp on these Latin arrangements. Fifty years later Saxophonist David Murray, himself a bold breaker of barriers, has recorded a testimonial to Cole’s excursion into the popular Latin music of his day.

Known for free-style improvisation and dissonant interpretations, Murray takes traditional dance rhythms and transposes them into a swinging, jazzy journey rich with his signature sound. With the support of a Cuban jazz ensemble and a Portuguese symphonic orchestra, as well as exciting, rough vocals by Latino Rock/Tango interpreter Daniel Melingo, Murray and co-producer Valérie Malot have offered an exciting meld of different traditions and styles that work well together.

There is an interesting relationship in the way Murray has arranged the brass, woodwinds, strings and vocals. The spices of this recipe are all pertinent. The resulting flavor is Dissonance meets Melody and Rhythm.

El Bodeguero, also called “the Grocer’s Cha Cha” Takes an old favorite and transforms it into a treat in counterpoint. While the essence of the original remains, there are many layers of sound both dissonant and harmonious weaving in and out of the arrangement while the rhythm remains true. I’d love to see the sheet music! Besides a tasty solo by Murray, there is a fun, well-formed trombone solo by Denis Cuni Rodriguez. While the piece carries Murray’s signature free –flow arrangement style, it also remains a danceable cha cha.

Quizás, Quizás, Quizás enters with all the theatricality this long time favorite by Osvaldo Farrés deserves. The creative melding of the instrumental voicings are joined by a human voice that was quite a surprise! The thoughtful phrasing, deep, rough and passionate vocals of Daniel Melingo are the perfect choice for the rougher mood of this arrangement. A veteran vocalist of star caliber for both tango and rock in Argentina and beyond, he dances his voice around Murray’s saxophone as if they were teasing each other.

Tres Palabras, a romantic favorite is given a hard punch of excitement immediately via the skillful, stunning high notes of trumpeter Mario Felix Hernandez Morrejon. The spirit of the tune picks up beautifully near the end of the arrangement with an intertwining of alto saxophone by Roman Filiu O’Reilly with Murray and Ariel Binguez Ruiz on tenor saxophones. Congas driven by Abrahim Mansfarroll Rodriguez carry the piece out in style.

Another well-known piece that has been given an entirely new face is Piel Canela, composed originally by Bobby Capó. Here we have a rendition with an elegant alto sax solo by O’Reilly. This arrangement is my least favorite on the project, but by no means does that mean it is weak. It held my attention from start to finish.

The most pleasurable tune is No me platiques, an arrangement where Murray’s mournful tenor saxophone is lifted up by the stringed orchestra. The effect is interesting, slightly unnerving yet I could not turn away. With an outstanding solo by Murray, this is by far the most expressive piece on the recording.

Black Nat, an original by Murray starts out with fire and gets hotter from there. Murray works the band and orchestra to completely support free and wildly expressive horn solos, including a very elegant trombone solo by Denis Cuni Rodriguez. Murray saves the last tenor solo for his own statement.

Cachito, a Consuelo Velásquez composition, is given a good treatment with excellent woodwind arrangements and straight ahead percussion balancing the arrangement. The string section supports a fine be-bop influenced alto sax solo by Oreilly that shows off finesse on the instrument.

A Media Luz returns us to the tango influence, highlighted by the rough vocals of Melingo. The arrangement moves in a dissonance that stretches boundaries for the vocalist, who handles the piece skillfully. Murray Captures the vocals with his bass clarinet and carries the mood through the rest of the piece.

Aqui Se Habla En Amor opens with the keys of José-Pepe Rivero’s teasing us into the tune before the orchestra and band kick in, supporting Murray’s conversational solo.

There is a bonus track on U.S. releases, El Choclo. Bandeleon by Juanjo Mosalini opens the tune as Melingo’s raspy and expressive voice treats us to a flowing tango journey that carries the listener straight to Argentina. The saxophone enters and injects a North American Jazz flavor into the recipe. This tune is a real treat!

David Murray, Valérie Malot, Producers in Argentina, Portugal, France for 3D Family

Track Listing: 1. El Bodeguero; 2. Quizás, Quizás, Quizás; 3. Tres Palabras; 5. No Me Platiques; 6. Black Nat; 7. Cachito; 8. A Media Luz; 9. Aqui Se Habla En Amor; 10. El Choclo; 11. Quizás, Quizás, Quizás (Radio Edit).

Arranger: David Murray.

Personnel: Joana Dias, Joana Cipriano, Rui Guimaraes, Maria José Laginha, Joao Andrade (violin); Joao Gaspar, Gonçalo Ruivo (viola); Samuel Santos, Catarina Anacleto, Tiago Vila, Rita Ramos (cello); David Murray (bass clarinet, tenor saxophone); Roman Filiu O’Reilly (alto saxophone); Ariel Bringuez Ruiz (tenor saxophone); Mario Félix Hernandez Morejon, Franck Mayea Pedroza (trumpet); Denis Cuni Rodriguez (trombone); Pepe Rivero (piano); Georvis Pico Milan (drums); Abraham Mansfarroll Rodriguez (congas).

Related links: David Murray on the web: www.davidmurraymusic.com

Article originally appeared on Janine Santana Latin Jazz (http://janinesantana.squarespace.com/).
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