Johnny Blas

Skin & Bones

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Best known for their roster of rare groove acts including Greyboy, Bugs, and Slide Five, Ubiquity's Jody and Michael McFadin also operate CuBop, their very own Latin jazz imprint. Following releases from timbale legend Henry "Pucho" Brown and percussionist Bobby Matos, and a reissue of an excellent Latin funk title from Har-You Percussion Group, rhythm master Johnny Blas made his debut on the label with Skin & Bones. It's indicative of the style that percussionists are so often thrust into the leader role. Though the horns may deliver sizzling Latin flavors and the piano (Mark Gutierrez) and vibes (Dave Pike) follow suit, the percussion artillery of Blas (congas), Jose Deleon (timbales), and Roberto Melendez (bongos, bells) gives the music its definition. Whether soloing or propelling the improvisations of others, song after song, they breathe life into this music. Skin & Bones is unique on a number of levels. For one, the four-piece horn section is an all-trombone unit of Dan Weinstein, Steve Baxter, Francisco Torres, and Isaac Smith. While every member of this quartet is an accomplished soloist, they are best heard in unison, delivering parallel threads of melody that reinforce each other through lively improvisations on the tunes -- which brings us to the compositions themselves. Impressive contributions from Blas (four), Weinstein, and Gutierrez (three apiece) make up the all original repertoire with their combined penmanship driving the fiery title track. Rather than being an exercise in nostalgia that much '90s traditional jazz had become, Skin & Bones is a testament to the continued vitality of this music.

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