Ralph Irizarry / Timbalaye

Ralph Irizarry & Timbalaye

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Bright and pushy, timbalero Ralph Irizarry's first release to reach a wide listening audience is full of his exuberant, gutsy character. Irizarry, as one of the New York scene's most in demand percussionists, having spent years with Rubén Blades and recording with Ray Barretto and Juan Luis Guerra, has had some time to develop his own voice. His style on the instrument is inventive, engaging, and musical, with flawless technique to spare. Irizarry is easily the most interesting living timbalero. He's in good company on Nuevo Millenium, joined by a host of brilliant players. Luis Perdomo, Luisito Quintero, Richie Flores, and Dave Valentin bring their Latin star power to the table, rounding out a competent if not famous lineup. The music is packed with complex arrangements and forbidding tempos. Though the complexity of the tunes could make this record the most challenging performance of the year, they are delivered with such expertise and confidence as to sound almost effortless. Though the horns are fantastic, it is certainly the rhythm section that is the focal point, and for good reason. The percussionist take authentic grooves to a new level, and the musical exchanges throughout are nothing shy of extraordinary. Nuevo Millenium is appropriately named, as the last one was not ready for it.

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