But Musical director Oscar Hernandez, with two brilliant Latin Jazz albums under his belt, has brought his full creative force to bear with SHO for another album of wonder. The Latin Jazz Project will certainly be a Grammy contender.
On this album, with seven of the eleven tracks composed by Hernandez, a veritable all-star guest cast adds their remarkable contributions. Hernandez produced the album.
The members of SHO certainly deserve to be recognized. Oscar Hernandez is on piano. Hector Colon plays trumpet and flugelhorn as does Manuel Ruiz on five tracks and Jonathan Powell on alternate five tracks. Doug Beavers, the coproducer and in charge of mixing the album is on trombone with Noah Bless. Jorge Castro plays baritone sax with Mitch Frohman on one track with him. Luisito Quintero is on timbales, shakere, shakers and chimes. George Delgado is on congas and Jorge Gonzalez is on bongos. Gerardo Madera is on base with Jeremy Bosch on flute. Bosch, Marco Bermudez, and Carlos Cascante all contribute vocals on track 11.
The album opens with a Hernandez original, Ritmo De Mi Gente. Jeremy Bosch is featured on flute along with Hernandez on piano. The alternating horns and percussion highlights are so hot. Wait for the last note with the baritone sax adding the exclamation point.
Bobo is a Marty Sheller composition and features the fantastic Bob Mintzer who makes every phrase, every note, count. Hernandez and the percussion are so tight. Colon and Powell with Beavers and Bless and Castro just cook the horn passages. Pay attention to Luisito Quinetero’s percussion work.
Invitation (Kaper and Webster, composers) brings along Kurt Elling’s vocals and Miguel Zenon’s sax work. Elling, of course, is world-famous and Zenon is world-class. Zenon’s sax is a vocal as Elling and the two of them together is like watching Zeus and Thor trading thunderbolts. But again, Hernandez with those horns and percussion…
Angel Fernandez’ Acid Rain features Bob Franceschini on sax and Jonathan Powell on trumpet in this instrumental piece with its fascinating horn runs atop the cool rhythmically rainy beat. A smoking groove.
Trumpeter extraordinaire Tom Harrell is featured on the Oscar Hernandez original Las Palmas. Cool and beautiful piano solo from Hernandez. George Delgado’s congas are a cool treat.
Hernandez brings together two of the baddest cats in the business on his Silent Prayers. A sweet piano introduction is joined by saxman Dave Liebman who slides into an equally tasty solo. In the background for the first 1:44 of the track, bassist Jimmy Haslip comes aboard with that incredible bass solo before Bosch adds his flute. The loveliest song on the album, Silent Prayers is enough to make you say a prayer of thanks for the incredible artistry of the composer, soloists, and the whole band. Liebman returns to give wing to the prayers before piano, horns, and percussion take us home.
Thelonious Monk’s Round Midnight is one of my favorite pieces of all-time. Hernandez takes the Gene Amato arrangement to a Latin paradise. The piano melodic line holds true with that great percussion and horn treatment. Powell is featured on trumpet and the whole song sounds like Monk in San Juan or Havana. Hernandez, of course, steals the show.
Hernandez’ Fort Apache features trumpeter Michael Rodriguez who joins the horns in a raw and aggressive foray against Hernandez’ steady piano with a spot-on percussion section. Powerful stuff.
Vibraphonist Joe Locke takes the lead on Latin Perspective with time given for Bosch’s flute. Locke is a master artist and always lights up the proceedings wherever he appears. Bosch fits like hand in glove with Locke and Hernandez. The solos of Bosch and Locke are worth the wait. They depart the track en corps before fading into the 36-second improv between Locke and Hernandez, titled Joe and Oscar.
Descarga De Jazz wraps up the album with chorus vocals from Bosch, Marco Bermudez, and Carlos Cascante. Mitch Frohman’s tough and tight baritone sax gets the feature but it’s Hernandez and the percussion that keep setting up the horn passes. You gotta love the vocals and that baritone sax just rattles your spine.
Oscar Hernandez and Spanish Harlem Orchestra have created an album of raw energy, tight grooves, beautiful melodies, and compositions to thrill and amaze any listener. The Latin Jazz Project was wroth the wait.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl