Afro Blue Band

Impressions

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The Afro Blue Band is actually a series of bands drawn from a pool of 15 musicians under the overall direction of saxophonist/Miami nightclub owner Arthur Barron, who has pulled a series of mostly hot Latin jazz performances out of the mix. Barron appears on most of the tracks, his workaday tenor and alto sharing the spotlight with the more coherent, impassioned work of Mario Rivera on soprano, tenor, flute, and cornet, Dave Liebman's soprano, Melton Mustafa's trumpet, Papo Vasquez's trombone, and Mel Martin's assortment of wind instruments. The only consistent anchors of these bands are Phoenix Rivera (Mario's son) on drums and Steve Neil on bass, who cook throughout the frequent personnel changes. The pianist is usually Hilton Ruiz, spelled on a few tracks by Mark Levine -- and the tough conga work is often in the hands of Jerry Gonzales. With a boiling clutter of Gonzales' Afro-Cuban percussion work, the collection starts off on the right foot with a great rendition of the title track; it sounds a bit like what Coltrane might have done with the tune had he included it on his "Kulu Se Mama" session. The band's inspiration, "Afro Blue," is also very hot, with Mario reaching toward the edge at the close. Overall, the revolving personnel is this album's strength; the frequent changes of texture and style keeps things fresh and unpredictable.

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