Tito Puente loomed large during the ‘00 edition of the Heineken Jazzfest (HJ). His death threatened the festivities as his appearance was expected during the closing of the festival and no one knew what the reaction of the local jazz audience would be towards Puente’s demise. Thankfully, the show went on and the 10th Anniversary of this jazz festival allowed a Latin Jazz family celebration of sorts as most of the artists and groups were regulars, as well as honorees, throughout the decade in celebration at the event.
A new “face” during the HJ history, however, begins this recording. The Manhattan Transfer penetrated the countervailing trade winds in the Parque Sixto Escobar with a rockish jazzy tune inseminated with oomph.
“Buenos Aires” is further evidence of Paquito D’Rivera’s tenderness towards beleaguered Argentina, even uncharacteristically eliminated early in their ’02 World Cup bid, as he features Argentinean musical modes in his compositions, recordings, and performance dictums. Argentina is also strongly represented among D’Rivera’s musicians who herein perform at a spectrum of light that any but a laser technician could unravel, if need be so. This gem refracts extended waves of elegance, beauty, taste, bravura, and coolness. It lasts almost 12 minutes and it is my favorite performance of all the HJ recordings so far.
Dave Valentín adds his name to the enormous list of artists of manifold genres, styles and disciplines who have been actively engaged by the melodic, lyrical, emotive and rhythmic affluence obtainable through Pedro Flores’ “Obsesión.” This might be the longest tune in the HJ recordings at almost 14 minutes of jamming-slammin’-rumba baptized into the very Jordan River of jazz. Valentín’s Quintet performance is obsessively aggressive and heated.
Michel Camilo has been featured at the HJ on various occasions and his performances in Puerto Rico are flawless and inspired. The original way of Sonny Rollins’ in “St. Thomas” becomes a Camilo adaptation to moist Caribbean jazz rear shaking. Indeed, Camilo’s Trio is a killer ensemble!
There is no escape from a “Bug” when you are in Puerto Rico. Eddie Palmieri gives you his while mainstream jazz strokes without Latin percussion. The stroking not only is excitedly good, but it also lasts a while. It goes on for more than 10 minutes and that’s more than most last in a recording. Palmieri and company, with the welcomed addition of Joe Santiago on bass and other local musicians, play extremely well in this presentation. Sax and trumpet shine through, as well as the arrangement.
“Altered Secrets” marks a particularly strong performance from yet another one of the main performers throughout the history of the HJ. In fact, his jazz was first recorded and presented through one of the earliest editions of this event. The bassist has the opportunity of fingering himself into the existing record of the auditory offerings of the HJ, as well as the percussionist, Ramírez and others. The drive of Humberto Ramírez’s Jazz Project here is unyielding.
David Sánchez breaks the flow with an unmitigated freer and more angular performance over a neck-breaking pace. Higher levels of thinking, understanding and will are required to ease the assimilation of the whole and the parts of this fantastic performance, including the up and coming star Miguel Zenón .
“Oye Cómo Va,” is a tip of the hat to the deceased Puente whereupon Valentín and other friends of the Master have some fun in his memory. How can you go wrong with “Oye Cómo Va?” Just groove on its groovy-groove...
Jazz, in its inevitable evolution, will continue to play at will with the genetics of Puente’s musical legacy. A current planting of young jazz buds, unidentified in the liner notes, show how secure such musical genetic material already is as they have their say on Puente’s “Mambo King.” After a brief initial slip-up, adding character and identity to the cut, they jam like Airborne Rangers: hard, fast and continuously!
Notes: Danilo Pérez and Elvin Jones, who performed at this festival, are not represented in the recording. Dennis Mario did the festival’s logo that year. The cover art can be seen at the Merchandise section of the HJ website. This edition of the HJ was held at the Parque Sixto Escobar and the recording features some of the longest performances through the HJ compact disc series.