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Mr Lucky
Music Reviews

Mark Levine
and the Latin Tinge

Hey, It's Me
©Mark Levine LCC001
Latin Jazz

Mark Levine and the Latin Tinge

Do you remember the sensations you felt the first time you tasted guacamole? The feeling of tightening your belt and discovering you lost a notch? Catching yourself in the mirror after a day at the beach and noticing how much better you look with a tan? Hearing Ella sing Gershwin with Nelson Riddle's orchestra? Finding a 20-dollar bill on the street and no one else in sight? We don't want to over dramatize the way we felt when we heard the first track of Hey, It's Me by Mark Levine and the Latin Tinge, but it was darn close.

The first thing that overwhelms you is the glorious sound. It's fat, chunky and clear, all at the same time. The opening song You and the Night and the Music is first taken at an Afro tempo and then switches effortlessly into a mambo. And then back again. It's not fussy; it's acrobatic and it makes perfect musical sense. The players all play at once and yet sound distinct from each other.

The songs range from jazz standards (Airegin, Green Dolphin Street) to samples from the great American Songbook, like Without a Song and an absolutely essential version of My One and Only Love. The album works equally well for dancing or listening. It deserves better, but you could easily play it in the background at a cocktail party and everyone would be in a good mood.

The band consists of Mark Levine on piano, Michael Spiro on percussion, Peter Barshay on bass and Paul Van Wageningen on drums and they are a true ensemble. Together they run the gamut of Latin rhythms, even touching Brazil, and maintain a solid jazz stance. One of the reason we love this recording so much is that neither the Jazz nor the Latin are compromised.

Marti Brom with the Cornell Hurd Band
Feudin' and Fightin'
Goofin' Records

As popular music gets blander and blander, it seems that the independent labels are making more and more interesting music. Hopefully with the Internet and some clever alternative marketing smarts, they'll find some success and leave Christina Aguilera, Eminem and their ilk to the retarded teenagers of the world while we enjoy off-beat delights like Marti Brom's Feudin' and Fightin'. From our point of view, it's inconceivable that anyone, anywhere would not at least enjoy this neo-hillbilly romp, if not out and out love it.

First off, Brom has a big voice with a fair range and a completely pleasant sound. Comparisons to Patsy Cline are inevitable but not entirely fair to either lady. But there is that undeniable sense of swing in both voices that gets under your skin and inspires midnight hayrides and smooching in the moonlight. The voice might be inspired by Cline, but aesthetically, Brom is channeling Judy Canova as her muse. The music on Fuedin' and Fightin' is country, but in the old sense. It's mildly corny and chock full of melody. We have no idea if Hillbilly music is making a revival, but perhaps it should.

The songs are on this short 6-track CD are all covers. The opener, Feudin' and Fightin' is from the catalogue of Dorothy Shay, known in the 1940s as the "Park Avenue Hillbilly". The bulk of Shay's work was recently reissued on CD (Jazz Band VJB 1954-2) and as fun as she is, a little goes a long way. Brom is much more theatrical and has a better voice. Other novelties on Feudin' and Fightin' include Tennessee Ernie Ford's Kiss Me Big and a multi-tempo opus called They Were Doing the Mambo. The highlight of the whole CD is Brom's swinging rendition of Moonshine Lullaby (listed incorrectly as Moon Shine Lullabye, if it matters). When Ethel Merman sang it in Annie Get Your Gun, the swing was all implied in Ethel's voice. Here, the band gently rocks and rolls and it's a winner all the way.

An album like this could easily become too cute or border on the silly. Marti Brom and the Cornell Hurd Band avoid the pitfalls that would turn this into simply a nostalgia act. Even though they probably could capably perform any music they set their minds to, it's clear they love this music and it shows.

A special review from contributor Robin Golding:

Various Artists
Blue Brazil 3 - Blue Note in a Latin Groove
Blue Note

What do the law of diminishing returns and Blue Brazil 3 have in common? Anyone please! Well the law of diminishing returns talks about decreasing levels of satisfaction as additional new units are consumed and in the case of Blue Brazil 3, this is indeed the case. After sampling volumes one and two you realize that three is not the "magic number" and that all of those economic lectures were not in vain. The problem with all three volumes is that they follow a rather strange formula: a couple of sizzlers, a few goodies and far too many also-rans (or fillers if you prefer.) It's a shame because when you get to delve into the Blue Note catalogue with the objective of finding some of the best Latin grooves ever recorded and you end up with these 21 songs, then you have definitely missed the luxury liner.

From the outset this compilation is not for the first time Latin buyer. Try Red Hot and Nova Bossafor that. Blue Brazil 3 is more for the collector with a good foundation who is looking to add a few more classics. And if you are after a few classics, then look no further than Leny Andrade's Nao Adianta which is the standout track in this collection. Leny Andrade, one of foremost singers of Brazilian jazz, has been refining the art of interpreting the Bossa Nova since the 60's and Nao Adianta is testament
to this unique ability.

Other goodies include Wilson Simonal on Tudo de Voce, Marcos Valle's Os Grilos, and the infectious limbo percussion riffs of Monsueto. All three Blue Brazil volumes thankfully include Elza Soares, the queen of samba. She doesn't disappoint, with two screaming ditties that will have you flaying your arms and wiggling your bum. It is also particularly pleasing to hear that Elza, daughter of a washerwoman, born and raised in a favela (shantytown) in Rio de Janeiro, was recently heard performing in London in concert with Gal Costa, Chico Buarque, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso and Virgínia Rodrigues.

The rest of the album has the names, (Milton Banana Trio, Danilo Caymmi and Os Borges), but this is not their best material and as a result this volume falls away rather badly. Still, if this is your poison, then the few strong tracks that can be safely filed under "Classics" will justify parting with your hard-earned dollars and on their strength alone we give three martinis to Blue Brazil 3. And maybe an olive.


The Martini rating System

Coconut Grove Media

Scientific, Accurate
& Easy To Understand!
5 Martinis = Classic
4 Martinis = Great
3 Martinis = Good
2 Martinis = Fair
1 Martini = Poor


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