Saxophonist Troy Roberts gets really ambitious here with his double quartet in the inspired eight-part voyage of The XenDen Suite. This is not so much an album with tracks as it is one long exploration into foreign concepts in comfortable settings.
There is an element of traditional jazz broken by inspired interludes compliments of the strings of Semra Lee, Stephanie Dean, Alex Brogan, and Matthew Hoy. Roberts is a natural leader and he shines through in his own right, blowing sweetly through tenor and soprano saxophones, but, he shows his true colors by letting the players around him shine. Opener "Tebrocnala" sets up a swing that's never lost throughout, even in the quieter moments of introspection. The jam continues through operatic movements building upon each other and setting up some nice surprises. Roberts sets out to explore sounds we haven't seen in previous efforts, but does so by allowing these ideas into his comfort zone. Very satisfying listen from beginning to end.
If you are to believe this month's Cosmopolitan
magazine, women will have you pegged from the get-go depending on where on their bodies you look at first. If you look at their butts, you're some sort of animalistic alpha-male. If you look at their faces, apparently you're gonna be very chatty and in-touch with your feelings. If you look at their tits, you're sexually adventurous. Well, that all sounds like a load of baloney. Be all that and more, find a nice 2009 Californian Cabernet and show her that you are an animalistic alpha-male who wants to get really weird and in the nude, all while gushing about all the things that make you tick.
Tito Puente, Jr. y su Orquesta Got Mambo? (Salsalsa Records)
For a while there, people were going to make the obvious comparisons to Jr. and his father, the late great Tito "El Rey" Puente, thus setting the bar pretty high for this guy. Well, while there might be some purists who'll recall his father's career as a flawless one, Jr. does very well on his own and has his father's knack for some good tunes.
This is a swinging album, full of good time salsa and charanga you can shake your booty to for hours on end. He calls upon some heavy-hitters of the genre to keep it going like Kevin Ceballo, Jose Arroyo, and the duo of Hansel & Raúl who'll surely keep the old timers happy. "Charanga pa' Nueva York" gets it going in the throbbing style that dictates the majority of the album, while numbers like "Ay Cariño" and "Brisa Azul" ground it romantically for those inclined to give in to moments of salacious sentiment.
For Her: We could make some good comments here concerning congas and Latin dance clubs, but we'll keep it short and sweet. Pair this album up with a nice peppery shiraz and homeboy will be eating out of your hand in no time.
Michael Wolff Joe's Strut
There is something decadent about Michael Wolff's Joe's Strut
that is equal parts space-age bachelor pad/Rat Pack swagger and mischievous child-at-play that is both charming and guarded.
He's performed and recorded with Cal Tjader, Sonny Rollins, and Cannonball Adderley, the last lending a link to this album's title and concept. Having joined Adderley's outfit in 1975, Wolff struck a friendship with the late great keyboardist Joe Zawinul. Here, he pays homage to the man through some gifted and decidedly happy compositions that even Wolff is unsure Joe would've performed. But, these are more about the man himself and his gusto in life than a "would've, should've."
The compositions are long and enjoyable, traditional too, but not cloyingly so, Wolff and company are having fun on these extended jams and everyone compliments each other very well. A nice point is the use of two different bassists, Chip Jackson and Rich Goods who are both translated incredibly well by drummer Victor Jones so that Wolff can let that piano fly!
For Him: While you might want to make this Valentine's Day extra special given your serious fuck-ups in the past (diamonds won't help you here buddy), something as seemingly lame on the surface like staying in, making a nice dinner, and snuggling while watching a movie, might be charming enough. That is if you remember to keep your mouth shut the majority of the evening and your ears open at all times.
A good trick with dinner might be something heavy and Iberic in orientation. Think Portuguese and Spanish cuisines. And heavy, heavy doses of a tempranillo or an ice-cold vinho verde.
Silvano Monasterios Fostered
Venezuelan-born Silvano Monasterios is one of the most engaging and charismatic pianists working out of South Florida these days.
A 1995 University of Miami graduate, Monasterios' style is a potpourri of influences earned throughout the years. Here we can call it fusion, without it being a dirty word. Elements of Latin, world, and traditional jazz mesh to create deep and intricate pieces whose textures and layers are revealed better with consequent listening.
His prowess as a soloist is evident here but without the ego that usually accompanies such geniuses; everyone is properly represented here symbiotically. Opener "Jerusalem" is a hopeful tune followed by the tone poem of "Avila," Caracas' mountain lung. The bass-driven "Bittersweet" even has a minute's solo as additional intro that gives the halfway mark of the album a nice tonal pause.
For Her: You were probably dead sure that nothing short of pure vomit-inducing grain alcohol would finally cleanse your palate from the latest mismatch your BFF set you up with.
Rejoice! Things are looking better and brighter in the love department. Maybe this year's love holiday will set up the rest of 2012 more successfully. And if it doesn't, your current beau had the prescience to buy you a case of Bordeaux. First growths ensuring that, at the very least, during the month of February, you will be nicely joshed and culturally progressive.