Nettai Tropical Jazz Big Band

September

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The Japanese imitate jazz better than anyone, so it is no surprise that they can also assimilate Latin-flavored jazz. On this, their second CD, the 18-21 piece Nettai, led by percussionist Carlos Kanno, parades through two Earth Wind & Fire pop tunes, five originals written by bandmembers, and three standards including "Caravan," "Flamingo" (sung by Kanno), and the "Mission Impossible" theme. What you hear is equivalent to college big-band arrangements of the well-known tunes, and short, concise solos that are played straight and have typical, undistinctive flavor and character. A pair of highlights include the serene seascape feeling of "Azul" with the lead instrument being a pianica, sounding like a cross between a harmonica and a melodica. "Mi Terra Natal" is like a quicker Latin version of "A Time for Love." The most outstanding cuts are the last three: a crisp staccato reading of the ballad "Flamingo," with Kanno singing the lyric in English, "Rendezvous" with a wonderful chart and the best authentic percussion, and "Leyenda" with its fanfare intro and hottest, most spontaneous interaction between the horns and Latin percussion. Kanno is the ex-officio of the famous Orquesta de la Luz, so all the potential is there for Nettai to also emerge as a premier outfit. Perhaps by their next CD they'll dig a little deeper and go for a more fiery stance.

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