Humberto Ramírez

Treasures

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Humberto Ramìrez is not of average Latin jazz pedigree. Having come from a straight-up salsa background alongside Willie Rosario before moving on to produce and arrange for other RMM salsa artists, is not standard fare for New York Latin jazzers, who tend to be East Coast conservatory fare these days. Is it any surprise, then, that his Latin jazz releases, like 1998's Treasures, would be as different as his background? The band sound is much closer to a pop or smooth jazz release, with compressed, focused instrumental tone and no-holding-back grooves. This ensemble would not go over well in an intimate night club. The personnel is similarly salsero heavy, not seeming to draw on the small pool of sidemen that most N.Y. Latin jazz records are limited to. The playing itself is generally good but not mind-blowing. It's the arranging that's truly special, which should come as no surprise. Though Ramìrez' improvisational prowess is nothing to sneeze at, his tasteful writing and intuitive musical sense as a leader is where his mastery lies. Throw different kinds of players with a different type of bandleader and a different kind of label (RMM typically doesn't do jazz) and it should be no surprise that Treasures is a whole new kind of record.

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