Latin from the North

Latin from the North

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Latin from the North Review

by François Couture

Two Northern Latin jazz trios joined forces for this project: the Playa Jazz Trio from England (Steve Waterman on trumpet, George Haslam on baritone sax, Robin Jones on congas) and the Anglo-Scandinavian trio Stekpanna (Mads Kjølby Olesen on guitars, Steve Kershaw on bass, and Petter Svärd on drums). Their album resolves a number of paradoxes with style, such as how can Northern musicians warm up playing Latin music without cooling the music down? By putting virtuosity, heart, and grace into their playing, that's how. The track list finds a compromise between originals ("Nowhere to Go" by Waterman and "Matusalem" by Olesen), jazz standards, and Latin standards. Luckily, the instrumentation of both trios is complementary. It results in a rich, varied sound. The rhythm section is warm and fluid in the spirit of a true Cuban band (instead of that rigid, overemphasized groove Northerners often impose on such music). It gives Hermeto Pascoal's "Bébé" a seductive power. The same applies to Ibrahim Ferrer's "De Camino a la Vereda." Waterman's jazzier contribution brings a nice change of pace and a welcome feature for the congas. The group extracts from "Just a Few" a samba that wasn't there (and it works very nicely) and gives "Mamblues" a swinging feel out of nowhere -- that is called playing tricks on the distinction between North and South. The delivery of the whole set is light and comfortable. It may surprise fans of George Haslam and his Slam label -- this is pretty straightforward music compared to his Anglo-Argentine Jazz Quartet.

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