I was delighted to receive an email from a publicist based in the USA asking me to review several albums of which Ray Obiedo’s Latin Jazz Project vol.2 was one. The album is described as “a contemporary jazz project tinged with the rhythms and colours of Latin music. The album comprises seven compositions penned by Obiedo and one jazz standard by composer and arranged by Gerald Wilson.”
The album opens with ‘Still Life’ and introduces the guitar playing of Obedio (Ray Obedio is not an artist I am familiar with), which sounds good. Peter Hovarth injects some energy with a well-played solo and the keyboard of David K Matthews plays a good supporting role with the percussion ticking along nicely underneath with its cha-cha rhythm. ‘Criss Cross’ increases the tempo and features some great piano work. However, it is the pulsating rhythm from Sheila E that pulls this track together while the flute of Norbert Stachel adds a bright tone that gives the tune a fresh sound.
‘Beatnik’ features Bob Mintzer on sax, who takes a wonderful solo spot around the track’s halfway point. The guitar of Ray Obiedo is good throughout as is trumpeter Mike Olmos : this is a good tune from composer Ray Obiedo. ‘Santa Lucia’ features the steel pan of Phil Hawkins and transports you directly to the Caribbean. The injection of horns and flute round-out the Latin feel before the flute takes a solo spot and drives home that bright upbeat island feel and Hovarth’s piano solo is simply the icing on top of the cake.
‘Belafonte’ (a nod to the great Harry?) gives us warm soft vocals, flute, and guitar. The percussion too is laid back, which must surely relate to the actor/singer’s perceived character, and another good piano solo is heard – a tune to wallow in. ‘Uno Dos’ brings Bob Mintzer back in to play albeit briefly. This tune has many elements, but each musician involved plays their part and it all holds together very well. It is the variety within this number that made it stand out for me and it was good to hear the bigger sound of this grouping.
‘Viva Tirado’ is the Gerald Wilson penned number on the album. This had an orchestrated feel about it to me and as such it came across well. The keyboard and percussion set up the piece nicely before we hear from the guitar and flute. There is, yet again, a good piano solo but it was the trumpet solo from Mike Olmos on this track that I particularly enjoyed. The album is closed out with ‘Big One’ and the warm tones of Ray Obiedo on guitar. Lovely horn playing from Mike Olmos and equally good percussion throughout, but that solo from Sheila E at the end almost steals the show.
On first hearing this album I felt that it was too laid back, lacking in the energy and vibrancy I associate with Latin Jazz music. On subsequent listening my initial response has mellowed but I have not yet fully embraced the Ray Obiedo Latin style. Both the writing and the playing of the music is good, but for me the tunes lack an edge, a vitality that I consider an integral ingredient in the Latin jazz style. Having said all that, the description at the beginning of this post did state that this was “a contemporary jazz project tinged with the rhythms and colours of Latin music” and in that respect Ray Obiedo has delivered.
Ray Obiedo’s Latin Jazz Project vol.2 is available to download now at Bandcamp
1. Still Life. 2.Criss Cross 3. Beatnik. 4. Santa Lucia. 5. Belafonte. 6. Uno Dos. 7. Viva Tirado. 8. Big World
Obiedo enlisted some of the music industry’s top musicians and long-time cohorts for the project but who precisely played what on which track is not available to me so the following has been taken from Ray Obiedo’s website:
[The musicians involved in the making of this album include:] Yellowjackets’ reed man Bob Mintzer, percussionist extraordinaire Sheila E., flautist Norbert Stachel, trumpeter Mike Olmos, percussionist Peter Michael Escovedo all make significant appearances. Santana members: keyboardist David K. Mathews, trombonist and arranger Jeff Cressman, and percussionist Karl Perazzo also contribute their expertise. This collection also features Tower of Power drummer David Garibaldi, Hungarian pianist Peter Horvath, steel pan player Phil Hawkins, vocalists Lilan Kane, Sandy Cressman & Jenny Meltzer and Dutch brothers Marc and Paul van Wageningen on bass and drums.