Jazz CD Reviews

Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet – ¡Bien Bien! – Patois Records

For Latin jazz newcomers, Patois has been kind enough to indicate on the song titles the genre of Latin jazz being covered.

Published on October 12, 2009

Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet – ¡Bien Bien! – Patois Records

Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet – ¡Bien Bien! – Patois Records PRC009, 55:21 ****:

(Wayne Wallace, trombone and vocals; Murray Low, piano and vocals; Michael Spiro, percussion and vocals; David Belove, bass and vocals; Paul van Wageningen, trap drums and vocals- with special guests, Julian Priester, trombone; Dave Martell, trombone; Kenny Washington, vocals; Orlando Torriente, vocals)

Wayne Wallace, the Bay Area based trombonist, is poised for national exposure. He has led big bands, but has concentrated his recording efforts largely on Latin/ Cuban based jazz expressions. He has recorded several CDs for Patois Records and his latest effort ¡Bien Bien! has the added benefit of special guests, the legendary trombonist, Julian Priester, as well as vocalist, Kenny Washington.

For Latin jazz newcomers, Patois has been kind enough to indicate on the song titles the genre of Latin jazz being covered – whether it is Bomba, Bolero, Cha-Cha-Cha, or Cu-bop. I had the privilege to catch Wayne’s set with a larger aggregation at this year’s Monterey Jazz Festival, and felt that Wallace deserved a better venue than the chaotic Garden Stage provided at Monterey.

His latest CD opens with the title cut. The trombone blend is striking here. Murray Low’s sparkling piano accompaniment sets the mood for the horns and percussion of Spiro and van Wageningen to open up the “feel good” vibe. Try keeping your head still when listening to this track – you won’t be successful. Eddie Harris’ classic Freedom Jazz Dance follows and is done as an Afro-Puerto Rican Bomba with both English and Spanish lyrics. Wallace’s trombone has a swagger that reminds me of Frank Lacy, the ace trombonist with the Mingus Big Band, as they both roam the stage, spurring on their bands to new heights.

Mojito Café
is dedicated to vibist Cal Tjader and conguero Armando Peraza, who were both based in the Bay Area during the time when the city’s North Beach area was the home of the major jazz scene in San Francisco, and boasted the Keystone Korner, The El Matador, and The Jazz Workshop – now all sadly lamented. The percussion mix of Mojito Café is an addicting cocktail. Murray Low again shines on his solo.

Building Bridges blends Puerto Rico, Havana, and the Latin scene in New York City. It stars the ensemble playing of the various trombones. Ellington’s In a Sentimental Mood follows and shows Wallace is unafraid to tackle mainstream jazz as Wayne’s muted trombone is spot perfect in setting an elegant Bolero mood. Playa Negra celebrates its namesake beach in Costa Rica and the cha-cha-cha percussion in this track written by Wallace puts Wayne in the mood to blow to our heart’s content. The dance floor would fill up rapidly to its beat when played live.

Another Ellington composition, Going Up! gets a triple trombone mix with Wallace, Priester, and Dave Martell honoring Duke’s dream ‘bone section of Lawrence Brown, Sam Nanton, and the inimitable Juan Tizol. It is one of the highlights of this CD.

Sonny Rollins’ Solid gets a Wallace ride done Afro-Cuban style. Wayne’s joyful solo sets the stage for more piano excellence from Murray Low. This cat has the Latin vibe down pat. Coltrane’s Africa closes out the CD and is given the intensity that this composition deserves. It is dedicated to Ron Stallings, a veteran Bay Area sax player, who played both jazz and rock with major Bay Area bands, and sadly passed away this past April from cancer.

The Latin Jazz Corner, a Bay Area Latin jazz blog recently picked ¡Bien Bien! as their album of the week. Hopefully, Wayne Wallace’s new CD will help Wayne get more exposure in other parts of the country where the groove of Latin jazz gets the appreciation that it deserves. Bien hecho!

TrackList: ¡Bien bien!, Freedom Jazz Dance, Mojito Café, Building Bridges, In A Sentimental Mood, Playa Negra, Going Up!, Solid, Africa

– Jeff Krow

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