To bring this particular approach to Latin jazz by way of R&B, modern Jazz, and other influences, Obiedo has collected a Who’s Who of modern masters to bring his vision to fruition. Joining Obiedo’s guitar are the great Bob Mintzer on sax, Sheila E. on percussion, Norbert Stachel on flue, Mike Olmos on trumpet, Peter Michael Escovedo also on percussion, and some of the Santana clan in the persons of David K. Mathews on keyboards, Jeff Cressman on trombone, and percussionist Karl Perazzo. A host of others add their talents and kills and the pay-off is huge.
The album opens beautifully with Still Life and Obiedo shows his distinctive guitar skills with the backing of Peter Horvath’s solo piano. David K. Mathews nails the keyboards and the percussion of Escoveda and Hawkins on drums is tight and sweet. The Cha-Cha-Cha number was originally written for Escovedo’s orchestra.
Criss Cross continues with a bit of Fusion with its Mambo rhythms. The horn and woodwind section is cool alongside the smoking hot percussion which features Sheila E. on congas. The flutes of Norbert Stachel and Rita Thies are gorgeous. Mathews again turns in his magic for Obiedo’s beautifully written original.
The Cha-Cha-Cha returns with Beatnik and its sweltering sax from Maestro Bob Mintzer. Obiedo himself offers up hot guitar work and covers the keyboards himself. Again, the writing is exemplary. Santa Lucia brings in the steel pans from Phil Hawkins. If that doesn’t make you feel happy, nothing can. Stachel returns with the high-flying flute and the percussionists provide the riveting Soca rhythms of the Caribbean. Horvath’s piano solo is fantastic…but then, so is everyone on this album.
Belafonte must be an homage to Harry Belafonte. I thought, at first, it was the Old French word for beautiful fountain but that requires two Ls in the spelling and Harry’s name does not. The sweet bossa nova sounds like Harry should be singing it. Horvath gives another beautiful turn on solo piano with warm backing vocals from Sandy Cressman and Jenny Meltzer.
Then Uno Dos brings back the steel pans and the Mambo rhythms. Obiedo, Horvath, and Mathews are all on keyboards and organ—and Brother Mathews gives a cool, cool passage on the organ. Mintzer again contributes that amazing tenor sax. Garibaldi’s drums, Escovedo’s percussion, along with Jon Bendich and Michael Spiro, is tight and smoking. This deserves repeated play.
Viva Tirado is the sole track on the album not composed by Obiedo but by Gerald Wilson. The version recorded by El Chicano is the arrangement that captured Obiedo’s attention and with good reason. Obiedo called said it has a “cool low-rider vibe.” You will agree with him. Mathews get the brilliant piano solo and Obiedo’s guitar work is so fine. Mike Olmos on trumpet is inspired.
The album wraps with Big World, once again an Obiedo original. The percussion section handles the cool meter effortlessly and Obiedo finally gives us a focus on the guitar again. Sometimes, he’s too generous but the artists with him make it worthwhile. It’s Mike Olmos on flugelhorn and Sheila E. on congas that take us home.
Truthfully, I had been praying for some good Latin Jazz to review. Ray Obiedo came to my rescue.
Ray Obiedo again shows his mastery of the Latin Jazz genre and he brings just the right artists to breathe life and love into his originals and one cover. Latin Jazz Project, Vol. 2 is worth the five-year wait.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl