‘Table For Five’ – Juan Carlos Quintero

With nearly a dozen albums as a leader, Juan Carlos Quintero has established his reputation as not only a highly acclaimed guitarist, but as the owner of a successful Jazz and World music label. His first album was a 1990 self-titled recording that featured Wrecking Crew member, mentor, and friend Tommy Tedesco, who wrote about the session for his popular column in Guitar Player Magazine, thereby introducing Quintero to an international audience of guitar-playing enthusiasts. Quintero was soon a staple on NAC, World, Jazz, and Smooth Jazz radio stations. JazzTimes wrote, “Quintero’s acoustic and classical guitars sparkle…By virtue of imagination as well as style, Quintero clearly out-classes many of his modern Latin guitar-strumming contemporaries.”

Table For Five comprises five jazz standards, three Latin standards, and two original compositions by Quintero. The album opens with ‘Alone Together’ by Arthur Schwartz. The playing is good with wonderful tone from the guitar of Juan Carlos Pintero and very nice playing from Joe Rotondi at the piano. The percussion and drums of Joey Deleon and Aaron Seraty respectively bring the Latin vibe to life. ‘Mambo Balahu’ shows off some impressive finger work from Juan Carlos and the piano, drums, and percussion keep the pulse of the tune alive, but I can’t help feeling that there is something missing the tightly repetitive motif laden tune.

‘The Gentle Rain’, by Brazilian guitarist Luiz Bonfa, continues the musical vein of track three and whilst well-played sounds a little too formulaic for my taste. ‘Manhã De Carnaval’, another Luiz Bonfa tune, has been slowed down from its usual cha-cha-cha tempo to what has been described as “a lush Bolero”. I think this may have been a mistake as all I could think of when listening through was where is the carnival atmosphere? The track that gives the album its title is a Juan Carlos self-penned number, and it certainly has a traditional Columbian folk feel and is all, again, well-played but lacks a pinch of seasoning that would elevate the tune to the next level.

Horace Silver’s ‘Song for My Father’ is a deserved jazz standard with its recognizable melody picked out clearly by the guitar of Juan Carlos. The piano lines are good as are the rhythms played by drums and percussion. One reviewer stated that “one doesn’t really miss the trumpet or saxophone that so defines a classic like ‘Song for My Father’.” I must disagree there: it is the horns on the original that gives this tune its energy, which is sadly missing from this version. There is, however, more life in ‘Porque Si Quieres’, written by Juan Carlos Pintero. The tempo is upbeat, the playing has a snappiness to it that has your toes tapping. There is also a welcome variation in style within the tune that makes it more interesting for the listener – the standout track of the album for me.

Henry Mancini’s ‘Days of Wine and Roses’ is another very well-known tune that is played in a straight-ahead style with great bass lines from Eddie Resto. ‘Giant Steps’ is an OK cover with some deft playing from pianist Joe Rotondi and interesting percussion and drum work from Serfaty and Deleon. The final track on the album is ‘Beautiful Love’ played by the trio of Quintero, Resto, and Serfaty. It is a wistful tune played with a level of emotional connection that, for me, is missing from much of this album.

I have read a number of different reviews of Table For Five and all comment on the skilful playing of Juan Carlos Quintero and the musicians he has around him. I cannot disagree with those comments, the guitar work and tone are good but for me this album lacks emotional integrity: it is all a little too polite, a case, perhaps, of technique over substance.

Musicians: Juan Carlos Quintero – guitar; Joe Rotondi – piano; Eddie Resto – bass; Aaron Serfaty – drums; Joey Deleon – percussion.

Tracklist: 1. Alone Together. 2. Mambo Balahu. 3. The Gentle Rain. 4. Manhã De Carnaval 5. Table For Five at The Cumbia Inn. 6. Song for My Father. 7. Porque Si Quieres. 8. Days of Wine and Roses. 9. Giant Steps. 10. Beautiful Love.

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