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Mr Lucky
Music Reviews

Papo Vasquez
At the Point V. One
Cubop CBCD015

Once when planning a trip to Mexico with some friends, we researched various bungalows to rent. Our goal was something near the beach, full of arches and furnished with a deck to enjoy some tequila shots at sunset before going out for the evening. We wanted to pass the hours in a merry cantina full of proud mariachi players, snacking on hot bits of pork and imbibing freely. One of our group proclaimed she'd found the perfect place, but our heart sank when we saw the homemade brochure. There was a photo of a somewhat bland woman with an overgrown perm, in a batik self-tied dress, drinking something in a tall glass, looking out on the Mexican sunset. Her description was "Imagine watching the magnificent sunsets while enjoying a freshly made tropical-fruit smoothie!" Just the word "smoothie" made us long for pork. The macrame plant holders and gailey-colored paper mache parrots did little to fulfill out fantasy of a holiday South o' the Border.

Most Latin Jazz reminds us of a smoothie. It's rarely what we're looking for and seems a watered-down version of the Real Thing. There are exceptions, but on the whole, we'd rather listen to something less appropriate for a Carnival cruise.

Having said all of that, we have seen the future of Latin Jazz and it's Papo Vasquez. Too often, Latin Jazz just doesn't inspire dancing, and the boring "head" arrangements coupled with "look at me!" solos just leave us cold. The music on this album is funky and while maybe not quite danceable, it's always inventive and the arrangements are modern, jazzy and still very Latin. There's a slight edge here that keeps the CD in the player for repeated listenings, something that rarely happens with Latin Jazz. Vasquez' trombone solos are big and fat while remaining nimble. The recording technique keeps things clean without being sterile. It's a winner all the way.

marti5 

Various Artists
House of Blues Swings
Platinum/House of Blues

 

An interest in things vintage that helped define American culture in the 20th century is always a good thing, but the Swing revival is very confusing. It's a big mish-mash of pre-Rock & Roll culture that at best adds nothing but better sound fidelity, and at worst turns some great music into cartoon culture.

With few exceptions, the horn sections are surprisingly tight, especially considering that these kids came late to the game. The problem is that all of the bands sound incredibly similar, one being a little more jump while another perhaps specializes in a Cab Calloway thing. The original numbers often have incredibly lame lyrics while the cover versions are always done better by the original groups. The worst aspect of all this is the bland male vocals. Wearing a kooky hat or baggy pants does not a great (or even funny) singer make.

Not one of the tracks on this compilation CD inspires us to dig any deeper. The two bands of interest, Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Likkers and Indigo Swing, we discovered long ago. Both of these bands take a more classic, less goofy, approach to the music and we think they'd probably be great at any genre they chose to follow. The rest of the bands just seem sincere but uninspired. 

Perhaps after the fad fades, the more talented of these groups will pursue the music to discover something new, the way Combustible Edison has with Lounge and the Squirrel Nut Zippers have with their pre-swing mix. We hope so, anyway. In the meantime, we'll stick with Louis Jordan.
marti1 

 

 


 



The Martini rating System

Coconut Grove Media


Scientific, Accurate
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5 Martinis = Classic
4 Martinis = Great
3 Martinis = Good
2 Martinis = Fair
1 Martini = Poor

 

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