TRR Artists are Keeping "Jazz with a Spanish Tinge" in Vogue
by Jeff Mitchell
March 20, 2017
The New York Times recently suggested those in search of Latin jazz's newest developments look beyond the Grammys, and rightly so.
Just out of earshot, an entire wave of musicians is rising - altering the current musical tide on a global scale. A child of two diverse worlds, Latin jazz has long since outgrown its infancy as pure experimentation and fringe composition - garnering unprecedented attention on today's musical landscape amongst crowds of all kinds.
Latin jazz has been going strong since its inception in the Afro-Cuban fusion brought about by greats like Chano Pozo and Machito in the 1940's. Even before their arrival, the "Spanish tinge" (as Jelly Roll Morton put it) was an integral element of jazz. However, its current movement and evolution as a genre is so frenzied as to suggest a resurgence in popularity. At the whim of a new generation of paradigm pushers, Latin jazz's freshest offerings verge on widespread appeal despite lingering just shy of Grammy-level recognition.
The genre's current upheaval comes thanks to a daring collective of musical creatives, each blazing unique yet intersecting trails with their work. This, coupled with the open field that Latin jazz, in particular, offers musicians, has allowed for a blossoming of the format in novel coloration.
With such a wide berth of stylistic elements to adopt from the Afro-Cuban repertoire, talented musicians devoted to the sizzling Latin sound have birthed their own variations of it - emphasizing aspects here and dropping others there. Most notably, a sizable amount of changes Latin jazz is experiencing of late stem from outside influence to the sound. Pulling noticeably from current trends dominating R&B and Hip Hop, for instance, tracks like Alfredo Rodriguez's and Ibeyi's "Sabanas Blancas" build on the classic roots of the genre set by Bauzà and Gillespie with distinguished basslines and choruses. However, artists like Zaccai and Luques Curtis of TRR are offering up sounds as experimental and lively as the original tentative steps taken in the genre's infancy.
The impressive music they produce is an amalgamation of virtuosity and feel. Characterized in equal parts by dizzying Bebop tempos and tight syncopated rhythms, their performances bring a certain heat to Latin jazz constants. Drums sync seamlessly with Zaccai's choice swing melodies on piano, held in place all the while by tremendously tight and verbose basslines, courtesy of Luques. Of course, the Curtis brothers are not the only ones getting involved in the new scenery of Latin jazz. Artists at TRR are both holding down the stylistic fort of the genre and pushing its boundaries ever forward. Truth Revolution Artists Mitch Frohman and "Little" Johnny Rivero exemplify this concept, having forged their own paths in the genre for quite some time.
Delivering a bellowing of sax notes, Frohman builds tension and excitement in his music. His contributions to the current Latin jazz scene hearken back to the emergence of Cuban motifs in the world of jazz. A-la Charlie Parker in his Machito Orchestra cameo, Frohman weaves a complex pattern of tones over and around accompanying instruments, at times leading the way with solid melodies before meshing perfectly back into the fray. His career has seen him playing with numerous bands and artists of note. He's even credited with the lead saxophone solo for "Sex and the City's" iconic theme. Frohman's dedication to the Latin sound is evident as he continues to put out music with his band "The Bronx Horns" and the "Spanish Harlem Orchestra" - keeping Latin jazz alive and well.
Fellow TRR Artist, Johnny Rivero, brings his percussive genius to the table in any ensemble - having laid hands on bongos and congas for over 30 prominent musicians and bands over the course of his career. Rivero's slick, tight beats unite subtle, swaying melodies perfectly; always in pocket and never out of place. Little Johnny has taken a huge step with his recent album release, titled "Music In Me." Much like Frohman, Rivero's sound is authentic, moving and right in line with traditional Latin jazz. With sophisticated restraint, he binds and enhances Latin jazz pieces - lending as cohesive and enrapturing a sound to them as the great "Patato" Valdez could have.
The artists at Truth Revolution Records are playing their part in maintaining and enhancing the genre's sound as this new musical wave comes out to the forefront - ensuring jazz in the Latin style gains traction amongst listeners new and old. Their devotion to the genre has helped to spread its influence, giving a diverse group of music lovers a chance to appreciate its timeless intricacies and recent developments. Although the future of Latin jazz is unclear, its current permutations have lent life, love and ‘sabor’ to the genre - ensuring a revival of sorts and further expansion of the sound to new horizons.