Latin jazz

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tony Hil­lier Steve Creedy

ABUC Roberto Fon­seca Im­pulse Roberto Fon­seca is a charis­matic Cuban re­vival­ist and re­vi­sion­ist whose work car­ries the seal of rev­o­lu­tion­ary zeal. While he has made a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to his coun­try’s mu­sic con­tin­uum, in­clud­ing a stint with Buena Vista So­cial Club, the in­dus­tri­ous pi­ano mae­stro takes that ex­plo­ration to a new peak with ABUC. Fon­seca’s ninth al­bum and his first re­lease for Im­pulse, one of Amer­ica’s pre­mier jazz la­bels, is what the ti­tle obliquely im­plies — that is, a back­wards pe­rusal and dis­sem­i­na­tion of Cuba’s jazz his­tory. What the moniker fails to con­vey is the per­son­alised and vi­sion­ary na­ture of the artist’s ap­proach.

ABUC is as ad­ven­tur­ous as 2012’s Yo, in which the Ha­vana-based key­board vir­tu­oso, com­poser and pro­ducer drilled down into Cuba’s mu­si­cal roots with a stel­lar West African crew. This time Fon­seca’s cre­ations show­case a co­terie of Cuban leg­ends, in­clud­ing his mother, singer Mercedes Cortes, and Buena Vista’s trum­peter Manuel “Gua­jiro” Mira­bal on the breath­tak­ingly beau­ti­ful bolero study De­spues. Fon­seca has recorded an­other fel­low So­cial Club alum­nus, Eli­ades Ochoa, singing a co-penned song, Tum­bao de la Unidad, as though his voice were fil­tered through the mists of time, while his com­padre’s hy­brid gui­tar-tres weaves mes­meris­ing son fig­ures be­tween stabs of elec­tric gui­tar, stac­cato pi­ano and per­cus­sion.

A rumba-es­que romp, Afro Mambo, cap­tures a 1940s Cuban big band jazz feel to a nicety, the blaz­ing seven-piece brass sec­tion lay­ing down a ro­bust plat­form for singer Dayme Aro­cena. Book­end­ing the set, con­trast­ing cover ver­sions of Ray Bryant’s 70s clas­sic Cubano Chant spot­light pi­ano mas­tery from the band leader — ini­tially in a of his 1970s band, the Boot­leg Fam­ily, along with guests such as sax­o­phon­ist Wil­bur Wilde, Rose Tat­too’s Dai Pritchard, prog rock leg­end Mike Rudd, Thirsty Merc’s Mick Skel­ton and 10cc gui­tarist Rick Fenn.

Rather than rein­vent the wheel, Cadd has re-recorded songs he mostly penned in the 70s, keep­ing true to early record­ing prac­tices by re­quir­ing the mu­si­cians to mostly be to­gether in the Mel­bourne stu­dio and lim­it­ing the num­ber of takes. The sound qual­ity and over­all feel of the al­bum was guar­an­teed through the pro­duc­tion tal­ents of Doug Brady.

Most Aus­tralians know Cadd for his Ax­iom hits and bal­lads such as Gin­ger Man but the pro­lific song­writer had a strong rock streak. This comes out in full force from the open­ing bars of souped-up guaracha-styled en­sem­ble piece high­lighted by a blind­ing trom­bone break from New Or­leans whiz-kid Trom­bone Shorty; lat­terly in a short solo tour-de-force.

Fam­ily is equally funky and in your face with taut trum­pet and Fon­seca’s bluesy Ham­mond or­gan un­der­pin­ning a lusty male cho­rus in­spired by 70s su­per­group Los Zafiros. The MD’s clas­si­cally in­spired pi­ano is the epit­ome of cool in Con­tradanza del Espir­itu, in com­bi­na­tion with cello, be­fore the ar­range­ment morphs into some­thing more ex­pan­sive. Fon­seca’s key­board work in Ha­banera is the height of el­e­gance, in tan­dem with Bar­bara Llanes’s celestial word­less so­prano singing and a laid-back rhythm sec­tion. Sa­grado Co­ra­zon is dif­fer­ent again, with Fon­seca in clas­sic main­stream jazz pi­ano-bass-drums trio con­fig­u­ra­tion.

ABUC works on a cel­e­bra­tory and cere­bral level, of­fer­ing a cor­nu­copia of lush, lis­som and imag­i­na­tively ar­ranged mu­sic played by a well­cho­sen and di­rected Cuban crew. Bul­let­proof. Just over half of the tracks were cowrit­ten and some, such as Love is Like a Rolling Stone, were recorded pre­vi­ously by artists rang­ing from the Pointer Sis­ters to Joe Cocker and Bon­nie Tyler.

They are re-en­er­gised here as Cadd and his small army of tal­ented mu­si­cians cre­ate a gen­uine old-time rock ’n’ roll chem­istry.

From the Daddy Cool groove of Slow Walk, ded­i­cated to the late Ross Han­naford, to the thump­ing rock of Long Time ‘Till the First Time and Hell Out of Dodge, this al­bum brings home the goods.

And the one new track, a mov­ing bal­lad called The One that Got Away, shows Cadd has not lost his song­writ­ing touch.

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