(Wayne Wallace – trombone, Wagner tuba; with 12 additional musicians and ten vocalists)
One of the helpful things leader Wallace does on this disc is describe the particular beat each tune is played in. For example, the famous Gershwin tune, “Fascinatin’ Rhythm,” is labeled timba funk and that old Latin standard, “Bésame Mucho,” is played as a bolero. Half the ten songs include the word “funk” in them, so the atmosphere is rhythmically charged. The band, which includes such noted players as John Santos (congas, percussion) and Paul Van Wageningen (trap drums), plays with passion and precision. The vocals, occurring on four of the ten numbers, are split between Spanish, where they function primarily as coloration (“Mis Amigos,” “Fascinatin’ Rhythm”), and English (“Serpentine Fire” “Unchain My Heart”), where they play a lead role (“Serpentine Fire” actually has both, plus Lucumi).
Four factors distinguish this music from scores of discs generally in the same vein: fun, variety, depth, and arrangements. A spirit of high-heartedness prevails as these players revel in what they’re doing. Thus, the music exudes a kind of joyousness. Leader Wallace has played in a huge variety of settings, everything from the Asian American Jazz Orchestra to Santana to Stevie Winwood, and lots in between. He is also a producer, educator, and composer for theater, television, and dance. This range of activity lends his music a reach that exceeds most Latin jazz practitioners. His exposure to and absorption of such a wide variety of experiences also gives his music surprising depth: no dabbling for Wallace; every number is thoroughly rooted in its particular song form and wears its rhythmic clothes unconsciously, devoid of alien mannerisms or superficiality. Finally, the arrangements are at once tight yet expansive.
The Nature of the Beat is the second of a trilogy that began with The Reckless Search for Beauty (not heard by this reviewer); the third disc in this set is yet to be released. With music this exciting and far-reaching, Wayne Wallace represents a high point of Latin jazz.
¡No Esta Complicado!
Coming Running to Me
Unchain My Heart
– Jan P. Dennis