Andy Narell

Hidden Treasure

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The debut recording for Andy Narell is quite an impressive project, considering it is his own band and not a combo comprising all-star players. While guitarist Steve Erquiaga, electric bass guitarist Rich Girard, and percussionist Kenneth Nash are accomplished players in their own right, they are not standouts, but in this case, that is a good thing. The ensemble plays together quite well, and as Narell's precision steel drum is clearly the lead instrument and definitely flashy, the music is more important than pyrotechnics. The leader also extensively overdubs acoustic piano, percussion, and vocals on some of these delicious, tropically inspired selections that feature modern jazz, Brazilian and pan-African influences. He also composed more than half of the selections, and with the enhanced addition of instruments, the group sounds much bigger than it actually is. His "Full Moon" is very inspired, sun-drenched and breezy, yet thematic in slight forms, mostly a jam, infused by the heavy conga playing of Nash with a samba section led by Erquiaga. "Yohimbe" is one happy, joyous, cooking track in basic samba form, while the ten-minute "Corre Nina" written by Hugo and George Fatturoso is a delightfully simmering soup with ostinato bass in another jam to eventually bop with. Their version of the popular Victor Feldman/Miles Davis evergreen "Seven Steps to Heaven" showcases Narell's precision as he plays the melody to absolute perfection -- no mean feat considering the confines of his instrument. Narell also plays an impressive solo piano piece, "Richard's Tune," very much from the Chick Corea school, as his impressive dancing phrases and cascading lines are truly enjoyable. The steel drum/piano overdub "Oskar's New Drum" is short, sweet, and charming. Jenny Holland lends a vocal component to "Seven Steps," is part of a singing triad during "Yohimba," and drummer Glenn Cronkhite is on loan from Mark Isham's Rubisa Patrolfor two tracks to beef up the hand rhythms from Nash. This recording has been issued on CD after being out of print for three decades. It's a good item to seek, especially if you enjoy pan steel drums from a jazz perspective. Narell is one of only a handful to have taken this approach to a high level.

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