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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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North By Northeast

Latin Jazz Alive Records



1. North by Northeast

2. The cell

3. Frenesi Cha-Cha

4. West Side Story medley

5. Tus Ojos

6. Tunisia by day

7. My favourite things

8. A mis contrarios

9. Cuban chant

10. Triste y alegre

Steve Pouchie (vibes and marimba on track 7), Wilson “Chembo” Corniel (congas, bongo, cowbell, shekere and batá), Julio Botti (tenor sax and soprano sax on track 7), Solo Rodriguez (bass), Diego Lopez (drums and batá on track 7), Adan Perez (keyboards on tracks 1,2,6 & 8), Sam Barrios (keyboards on tracks 3,4,5,7,9 & 10), Joe Dejesus (Cuban flute on track 3), Ariel Santiago (flute on track 9), Charle Alleto (guitars and tres on track 10), Guido Gonzalez (trumpet on tracks 1&4), Andy Hunter (trombone on tracks 1&4), Jorge Maldonado (vocals on tracks 3&5), Roman Diaz (batá and vocals on track 7)

Latin Jazz Alive Records, New York, USA 2014. [58:21]

The majority of lovers of jazz are somewhat parochial in what they chose to listen to most; those who adore trad jazz tend to abhor modern jazz and although many love to hear singers others feel they slow things down and get in the way of the music. I am as guilty as anyone with my likes and dislikes and normally I would tend to shy away from ‘Latin jazz’ as being too samey so that listening to whole discs of it or an entire evening of it at a club would prove beyond my staying power. However, as is so often the case it is the exception that proves the rule and this disc is beginning to work its magic on me.

Not only is the music extremely infectious, and well written where the music is an original composition, but there is a good mix of straight ahead jazz mixed in with the usual bongo beat and a good example of this is the first and title track when around 1:50 pianist Adan Perez who arranged this Pouchie original with the man himself gives a beautiful solo before Pouchie’s fabulously delicious vibes cut through punctuated all the while by “Chembo” Corniel’s wonderfully rhythmic congas and bongos.

So much Latin jazz relies solely on the beat while either recycling some obvious ‘standards’ or delivering mediocre originals whereas here you are aware of real creative talent in spades and with a vast array of different instruments giving the whole experience a unique sound that lifts it out of the bland niche where Latin jazz often finds itself.

Where there are vocals the singers are so good that they really make it stand out as they do on Frenesi Cha-Cha, a real get up and dance number. Bernstein’s music from his West Side Story stands up well to the Latin arrangement of the two tunes taken from it and fused into one.

Steve Pouchie gives us a very interesting take on Night in Tunisia in his Tunisia by Day with Julio Botti’s tenor sax still keeping it firmly in the jazz world of Dizzy Gillespie’s original. My favourite things becomes a Latin classic in the hands of Pouchie with “Chembo” Corniel’s exciting batá arrangement delivered by drummer Diego Lopez and Corniel himself while Pouchie exchanges vibes for marimba which adds another dimension to this Coltrane classic.

A mis contrarios is another great Pouchie composition which is packed with originality and fantastic rhythms. Ray Bryant’s Cuban chant arranged by Pouchie retains the original’s power to dazzle and with Pouchie’s vibes and Joe Dejesus’ Cuban flute it takes on a brilliant new persona. Signing off with Triste y alegre this amazing band gives an object lesson to the likes of me that one should remember that real talent in musicianship and composition can change attitudes that were deemed entrenched. I shall listen to ‘Latin jazz’ in a wholly different way from now on and this disc will be one of my benchmarks.

Steve Arloff

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