Review by Brad Walseth
Fans of Afro-Cuban Latin Jazz will take delight in this solid recording of original compositions and arrangements by Eugene Marlow, a well-regarded composer, arranger, author and educator who has written nearly 200 jazz and classical pieces. Many of Marlow’s works have been influenced by the artists he has associated with during his tenure with the Milt Hinton Jazz Perspectives Concert series and the BMI Jazz Composer’s Workshop, including Tito Puente, Chico O’ Farrill, Steve Turre, Chris Washburne, as well as percussionist Bobby Sanabria, drummer Phoenix Rivera, trumpeter Michael Mossman and pianist Arturo O’ Farrill — who all four play in the band on this album, with O’ Farrill taking the reigns as leader.
For fans of the genre, there is much to applaud about this release. Songs are interesting and explore the vast range of expressions available in the Afro-Cuban Latin jazz sound. The musicianship is, of course, top notch. Sanabria and Rivera, along with percussionists Roland Guerrero and Cristian Rivera and bassist Ruben Rodriguez create a tsunami of rhythm over which the likes of Mossman and Jim Seely on trumpets, Mario Rivera on soprano sax and flute, Bobby Porcelli and Hayes Greenwood on saxes, and Luis Bonilla on trombone can all soar. All are top-flight musicians, well-schooled in the style, and the presentation is held together solidly by O’Farrill’s masterful piano work – which flows confident and graciously in the center of the sound.
But despite the complexity of Marlow’s compositions, the music is always accessible and enjoyable. “Mr. O’s Groove” starts things off in fiery fashion with propulsive rhythm explosion and Mario Rivera scorching things on soprano sax, while “Song For an Old Soul” is moody, but quite compelling with rewarding solos by O’ Farrill and Greenfield on alto. The Latin setting of Gershwin’s “Summertime,” (the only non-original piece) hops along nicely with some grooving guitar work by Rory Stuart, some brassy trumpet by Seeley and Bonilla’s choice trombone solo spot, while O’ Farrill provides a brief solo number — “Arturo’s Reverie” that leads nicely into the joyous celebration of “Flight.”
“Go Like the Wind” adds a bit of ’70s jazz feel successfully to its minor-key movements, with Bobby Porcelli bringing some gnarly attitude on alto. “Down the Road” continues this trend with an upbeat feel that perfectly matches the song title. Nor does the fun stop here, as the rest of the album is one wonderful discovery after the next, as this talented group of players gives Marlow’s compositions the full treatment. “Old Havana” is a smoky and memorable song, while the title track ends the recording buoyantly — if you don’t find yourself singing along, better check your pulse. For fans of the genre, this recording is highly recommended, and for people unfamiliar and looking to hear well-written Afro-Cuban Latin Jazz performed and recorded well, I suggest you listen and make the wonderful discovery for yourselves.