As both bandleader and sideman, drummer/composer Bobby Previte is well-known for his forays into New York downtown avant jazz, but how about avant blues-rock? Well, why not? Previte has never been one to shrink from challenging music, but he also seems inclined to want to have a jammin' good time more than many of his cohorts on the scene. And blues-based forms certainly seem ripe for investigation by someone with his sensibilities. After hearing Previte's "bar band" Latin for Travelers get down on Dangerous Rip, one wonders why others haven't thrown electric blues-rock into the avant jazz mix quite like this before. Previte makes it all sound so natural. Latin for Travelers' music presents many opportunities for blues-drenched guitar from Stewart Cutler and Jerome Harris, as well as soulful Hammond organ from Jamie Saft, but Previte's underlying musical architecture strays from expectations; for example, you'll only find the band simmering around a four-beat midtempo walking bassline once, during a portion of "Bobby's New Mood." Previte likes to build many of his compositions from the ground up, starting with a single guitar or keyboard statement and adding rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic elements piece by piece until an overall -- and often quite compelling -- picture emerges. Of course, it's not all driven by the blues alone; the centerpieces of tunes like "Bobby's New Mood" and "Open Jaw" are fusion-tinged jams featuring Saft on Fender Rhodes, sounding like he walked in from a Bitches Brew session (no surprise given the keyboardist's presence in Previte's Miles Davis repertory band The Horse during roughly this same time period). And, as expected, Previte holds center stage with his characteristic drive and flair; his in-the-groove drumming is precise, clean, driving, and dynamic -- even when breezing through the tricky time signature of "You Tell Me." As if it all this wasn't fun enough, the CD concludes with a medley of surf rock instrumentals, with guitarist Marc Ducret proving he can have a great time even on a Ventures tune like "Walk Don't Run." With its rhythmic syncopations and serious downtown chops lurking beneath a very engaging surface, Latin for Travelers is still unusual enough to merit a bit of the avant-garde label often tagged on Previte. But this is a band out for a good time first and foremost, so listeners are advised to check any vestigial pretensions at the door. It's a mystery why Latin for Travelers wasn't hotter in the States during the late '90s when Dangerous Rip and its companion CD My Man in Sydney were recorded live in Italy and Australia. Jam band fans who line up in droves at Medeski, Martin & Wood concerts take note -- if you haven't heard this, you're missing something.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Dave Lynch