Eye Contact

Havana Manana

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Inspired by a recent trip to Cuba, bassist Swartz has immersed himself in island rhythms, and has come up with his own take on "jazz...Latin" with the band he dubs Eye Contact. It's a fusion of more contemporary sounds, featuring the Carlos Santana-ish guitar of Bruce Arnold and the violin and piano work of standout Gregor Huebner. Drummer Ed Uribe and percussionist Memo Acevedo are excellent choices as steady pulse-pushers, and trombonist Barry Olsen shows up on two of the 11 cuts. Afro-Cuban music works best when it is more subtle and less obvious or derivative; this notion is evidenced on several tracks. "Cubalypso" has an unusual, lilting melody (played by Arnold's steel drum-assimilated guitar) and some nice violin-percussion interplay. Swartz's slow, sexy ostinato basslines set the tone for the gorgeous "Bass Guajira." On "Nuyorican Nights," a Puerto Rican bomba rhythm complements Arnold's solid, melodic phrases. There are two descarga/jams -- "Mi Soncito," written by Isabel Valdes, features Arnold in a Wes Montgomery/Grant Green-like chordal traipse, while "Y2K" has Olsen and Arnold going at it like light heavyweights. The session holds much promise for the future, but Swartz needs to stick to this format for a little longer, and Arnold must shake the specter of Santana. Nevertheless, a very worthwhile effort.

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