Larry Calland

Almost There

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Still weaving his Latin music magic from, of all places, Indianapolis, IN, percussionist Larry Calland and his group, Conga Jazz, continue their exploration of the application of Latin rhythms and patterns to a variety of musical forms. This, their third CD, takes Calland and his group somewhat away from his previous two efforts. There are more elaborate, embellished arrangements resulting in a greater assortment of musical presentation. The group's regular pianist/keyboardist, Dr. Virginia Jefferson, plays a critical role in this undertaking. She supplies the lead on a cheerful, strutting version of Vince Guaraldi's "Charlie Brown's All Stars." Contrast this with the hypnotic cadence of "Mistico," with Calland's steady, arresting percussive pulse riding under creative tension concocted by Jefferson. This tune brings images of warm, hot nights at a beachfront bar in Rio de Janeiro, making it one of the more engaging tracks on the set. Matters lean toward the exotic and rain forestry on Vince Mendoza's "She Never Has a Window," this time with Jefferson working the Yamaha W7. Another album highlight is Calland's wildly oscillating interpretation of one of Carlos Santana's superb instrumental pieces, "Tales of Kilimanjaro," with the congas and bongos getting a bracing working over. "Almost There" and "Love Is You" are both enriched by the addition of the guitar of Sandy Williams, which gives these tunes a Antonio Carlos Jobim aura to them. The only disappointment on the set is "Solace," dedicated to the events of September 11. Emotionally a nice gesture, but musically rather flat. But clearly this third release is the best of what the group had to offer on CD. Recommended.