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Music Reviews


Generoso Jiminez
Generoso Que Bueno Toca Usted

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Perhaps one of the most exciting songs in the entire catalogue of recorded Cuban music is Que Bueno Baila Usted, performed by Beny Moré and his Orquesta Gigante. It's one big crescendo that never quite explodes yet it marries perfectly the African roots and rhythms of black Cuba with Jazz and Big Band music. Right out of the gate, Beny sings, "Generoso, como toca Usted!" (Generoso, how you play!), and this is followed by Generoso's explosive sputtering trombone solo, reminding one of a geyser trying to explode. And it does.

A million years later, contemporary Cubans and Cuban-Americans are paying tribute to this great trombonist who was so integral to Moré's Big Band sound. Led by Juan Pablo Torres and featuring the likes of Rudy Calzado, Pio Leiva, Arturo Sandoval and the ubiquitous Paquito d'Rivera, the all-star cast plays ten strong numbers, all written and arranged by Jiminez, with three tracks even featuring the 84-year old's ever-graceful trombone solos.

There must be something to rum, heat and tobacco. Young Juan Paul Torres is clearly organizing things but it's Jiminez' show all the way. Like Bebo Valdes, in whose band Jiminez played before hooking up with Beny Moré, Generoso Jiminez proves there are a lot of tunes left in an old violin, a thought that we find encouraging as we feel age creeping up.

All the songs are good, but we suspect the actual sessions might have been even better. A lot of the tracks fade out for no apparent reason, sometimes even in the middle of a solo. Other than this, the music is a really fine tribute to a rich moment in music history, Cuban or otherwise. There's nothing cute or fake "retro" about the recording. Jiminez doesn't quite have the chops of a young buck, but there is the absolutely sweetest moment on the last track, A Bailar Tomason, a sort of Manzanillo-inspired dance track when the coro cries out, "¡Generoso que bueno toca Usted!" and the band stops so the 84-year old Jiminez can take his solo. There's not much muscle and it's all heart. You'd have to be pretty hard not to feel a little soft when you hear the solo. For us, it's what inspiration is all about.



Janis Siegel
I Wish You Love
Telarc CD 83551

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Janis Siegel gets a round of applause for singing non-mainstream music, singing it well and even making a living at it. Even though she's probably the brightest member of the musical quartet The Manhattan Transfer, her solo efforts have always been rather lackluster in that there is a dreary sameness or a "Look-Ma-no-hands!" variety show-quality that never quite gels.

Siegel has great taste and a beautiful voice. Oddly, she doesn't have much range, either emotionally or vocally. In her world, music is beautiful, maybe a little arty but never out of control or carefree. It's odd that she insists on a jazz foundation because while her aesthetic may be jazz, her delivery is pure pop.

Her new album, I Wish You Love, on Telarc, is probably her best. The original idea was take pop songs from the Brill building and jazz them up. This is truly a dreadful idea and thankfully it was mostly dropped. Instead we again have a wild mix of styles that work on various levels. Having essentially the same back up band and producer for all 11 tracks gives the album a cohesiveness that was lacking on her last eclectic disc, At Home. The songs all have actual arrangements (as opposed to plain old "head" arrangements as on her bland as toast The Tender Trap) so we're really ahead of the game here.

There are many bright moments on I Wish You Love. The title song is a swinger with bongos and you may just forget about Charles Trenet and Keely Smith. Also strong is a peppy The Masquerade Is Over. We cringed when we saw that she covers Go Away Little Boy, but she pulls off a very credible version, owing nothing to Donny Osmond or Marlena Shaw. The Late Late Show and Don't Go To Strangers, however, are so tied to Dakota Staton and Etta Jones, respectively, that we have to wonder why she would bother recording these themes without adding anything new or interesting. Don't Go To Strangers in particular owes everything to its previous "owner".

The entire album has a pleasant acoustic sound and Telarc's revolutionary recording techniques really bring the action home.

We like Janis Siegel and we hope she continues to record frequently. We feel there's a great album in her and she's getting closer all the time to recording it.




New and Notable

Lynn Bush turns out to be "the girl with something extra" on her new Origin Arts release, Still Life (Origin 82394). A smart trio, a smart repertoire and a smart singer all add up to a smart purchase…

Jazziz Magazine has collected 16 strong jazz tracks for its benefit disc, Homeland. Proceeds go to aid the Red Cross and you get to hear the state of contemporary jazz. Call 888-834-3023 ext 303 for copies…

Honky Tonk Confidential's album, Your Trailer Or Mine? is a real mix bag-o-nuts, from the sublime to the outright stinky, but we think it's worth it alone for Diana Quinn's I Love the Bartender. Check out their website for more details...

Mondo Platinum (Ark 21 Records 1865800512) is a peppy compilation that sounds a little dated in that all the songs have nice melodies and a vague trip-hop feel. Who would have thought we'd have nostalgia for 5 years ago? The best tracks are from North Africa but the whole disc is solid, except for Canda's entry. It belongs on a blander, less interesting album.



 



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