The New York City Jazz Record

To reinterpret Latin jazz is to risk alienating two camps with strong opinions: jazz listeners and much of Central and South America. Yet Zaccai Curtis was not cowed by the ambitiousness of his project, bringing his Orkesta into Dizzy’s Club (Sep. 10th) to present the “Evolution in Latin-Jazz Big Band” and certainly the pianist and his bassist brother Luques had good instruction on the history and potential of Latin jazz at the hands of mentor Eddie Palmieri. The band was 11 strong—Jonathan Powell and JS Williams (trumpet), Peter McEachern and Joe Beaty (trombone), Albert Rivera (alto), Don Braden (tenor), Mitch Frohman (baritone), Camilo Molina (drums) and Reinaldo de Jesus (percussion), plus vocalist Shenel Johns for a couple of numbers—and some of the tunes, mostly originals, were less evolutionary than tributary, Curtis modernizing the forms with a delicate touch. Yet he accomplished his mission with the longest piece of the set, “Robot’s Ballet”. If there isn’t a subgenre already called Latin Industrial, Curtis may have inadvertently invented it. Percussion which elsewhere felt fit for dancing here recalled the churning of a factory and the counterpoint among the horns highlighted the song’s dark foundation and pliable tempo; at times piano soloed over a band that was hurtling towards oblivion. A techno-tribal drum and bass segment was a perfect introduction back to the melody reading by the full band, which now was definitely speeding up like a runaway train.

—Andrey Henkin

Photo by Kasia Idzkowska