Roland Vazquez

Quintet Live

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Roland Vazquez is known as a Latin jazz drummer and percussion who incorporates a forceful rock inflection in his playing and composing. These live concert sessions done in Canada took a full decade to be issued after their recording dates. There are some production flaws and a bit of thin sound, but they are not detrimental to the excellent music and musicianship. Vazquez and percussionist Ricardo Candelaria back a powerhouse band of veterans -- saxophonist Walt Weiskopf, electric bass guitar pioneer Anthony Jackson, and especially the brilliant pianist Mark Soskin shine brightly. The group feels like a jam band but the music is tightly arranged with little interest in tuneful, singsong lines and puts more emphasis on small strung-together structures that allow spirited improvisation and interplay. "The Path of Change" best represents this aesthetic, using multiple complex changes and harnessed energy. Soskin's minimalist modal montuno lines nail down Weiskopf's swirling neo-bop ideas and the churning rhythms of the rest. "Dance for Louise" is quite similar, as the pounding insistence of Vazquez added to a deft Afro-Cuban pace sets off Soskin and Weiskopf's subtle or surging dynamic bent. "Las Mediosas" whips up a hip groove in a most energetic Latin mode, with Weiskopf's flute and Soskin's deeply driven piano leap out in unison. There are several lengthy pieces that fare less effectively and are slower to develop, but still yield listenable treasures that are intellectual and involved. The three aforementioned tracks are centerpieces and unquestioned highlights, with a remake of the soulful "Sevilla" from the previous studio CD Further Dance (as are "The Path of Change" and "Las Mediosas") also ranking up there. The best of Vazquez so far, his next contemporary recording is much anticipated.

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