5th Element

Swing Para una Nota

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At first glance, the 5th Element would seem to be a young Latin jazz band, but in fact they are a seasoned group with previous recordings not available in the U.S. until this one. They are steeped in the straight-ahead post-bop tradition. This quintet from Mexico City, founded in 1999, is much more beholden to the precepts of Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers than Tito Puente, with only a hint of Brazilian music heard on this set of mainstream jazz originals that swings. Trumpeter Gabriel Solares and saxophonist/flutist Jose Angel Ramos will not persuade hard bop lovers that they are the second coming of Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter, but they're both quite competent, lyrical, and even charming. Pianist Felipe Gordillo is the focal point as a performer, but more so as composer of half of the tracks. The title track shows Gordillo's fondess for Thelonious Monk, mixing angular melodies with an effortless swing, as does the similar "Smiling." Blakey's style is well represented during the out-and-out hard bopper "Con 2 Frases" penned by Solares, and especially by "Elementos," where a softer focus still brings a shining melody to the forefront as the prime Jazz Messengers preferred. There's also a nice cover of Pat Metheny's "Hermitage," and some light samba or bossa nova on the tail end of the program, only hinting at the Latin heritage of this fine ensemble. It seems they are only scratching the surface of their vast potential, but Swing Para una Nota will introduce them to the public worldwide in fine fashion.

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