Roberto Magris & The Europlane Orchestra, Current Views (Soul Note)
Italian pianist Roberto Magris keeps rolling out great recordings that should afford him much more recognition in the United States as well as abroad. And this is no exception. Current Views features Magris with his Europlane Orchestra, a small big band whose size varies from sextet to septet to octet as the robust sound requires. The gems here include “The Storyteller” (an extended piece that features a guest appearance by guitarist Philip Catherine), his uptempo”React!,” the high-energy, Latin-tinged “Hombres,” “Steady Mood” and “For Naima,” which Magris wrote for his daughter. The mood-setting writing and the musicianship here are very fine indeed.
Omar Sosa & NDR Bigband, Ceremony (Otá)
Every Omar Sosa performance swings deeply and is imbued with mystical/spiritual elements that are ingrained in his being and his music. Ceremony explores 10 of the pianist’s original compositions – pieces in which the music is also in service to the Orishas, the Yoruban gods of his native Cuba who are his guideposts and sometimes his inspiration. Sosa, in his brief notes, refers to music as “the voice of my soul.” Germany’s excellent NDR Bigband tapped into the expressive elements at work here, adding even more depth to Sosa’s pieces, with arrangements by cellist Jaques Morelenbaum. My favorites: “Yemaya En Egua Larga” (on which Sosa plays piano and marimba), “Cha Con Marimba” (with a fiery trombone solo by Dan Gottschall), the Thelonious-inspired “Monkurú” and one of his new works, “Salida Con Elegba.” This is a February 9, 2010 release.
RG Royal Sound Orchestra, Impact (RG Records)
Here’s a genre-bending, genre blending salute to a dozen of the most enduring pop melodies of the past 50 years or so – from “As Time Goes By” to “My Way” and “Hotel California.” The treatment is most unusual, in which it takes the jazz and Afro-Cuban big band format, and adds a strong dollop of flamenco. The Miami-based orchestra, assembled by Recaredo Gutiérrez, is enhanced by the strong soloing of tenor saxophonist Ed Calle and trumpeter Adalberto Lara (“Trompetica”). “Macarena” was included as an enduring pop melody – perhaps inescapable is a better term. It’s treatment might have been interesting if they had resisted the temptation to add vocals. This is a February 10, 2010 release.