Bill O'Connell Latin Jazz Project

Black Sand

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Pianist Bill O'Connell presents the debut of his Latin Jazz Project, which mainly features bassists Andy Gonzalez and Charles Fambrough, drummer Steve Berrios, and percussionist Milton Cardona. Alto and soprano saxophonist Joe Ford appears on four tracks and is quite marvelous on "Trepidation"; other notable guests include trumpeter Randy Brecker (on "Black Sand" and "Kidz") and flutist Dave Valentin (on "Blue Brazil"). O'Connell's tunes are richly melodic and harmonically involved, not to mention beautifully recorded. The bouncy, knotty complexity of his piano playing sometimes brings Chick Corea to mind. Only with the finale, a funky reading of Cole Porter's "It's Alright With Me," does O'Connell depart from original material. While the program grows a bit repetitive at times, there are a number of remarkable cuts, such as the opening, hard-swinging "Latin Jazz," the vocal chant-based "Obakoso" (co-written with Cardona), the stripped-down piano/chekere piece "Fire Dance," and the perversely off-kilter "Son of a Montuno." (It would seem that "Iguana," with its title and its familiar funk vamp, is a knowing nod to Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon.")

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