December 2000

Jazz Tribe
The Next Step

Alto saxophonist Bobby Watson forged an artistic partnership with percussionist Ray Mantilla back in the 1980s as part of his band Space Station. Their landmark 1984 Hands of Fire (RED) album marked an exciting time in the jazz-Latin hybrid with its unparalleled swing and improvisational fury. The Jazz Tribe is a continuance of those ideas and The Next Step offers brilliant hard bop playing with a fine Latin touch.
Throughout The Next Step trap drummer Victor Lewis grooves with Mantilla's congas, as Curtis Lundy anchors it all down on bass fiddle. Ronnie Mathews contributes an array of rich harmonic touches on piano, including a bluesy intro on the opener, "Mantilla's Jam," which Lundy picks up on bass and uses to drag the tune into a funky boogaloo beat. Watson reaches for the stars with imaginative solos and tight ensemble riffs alongside trumpet ace Jack Walrath, and the saxophonist's "River Jordan" is a masterful artistic display, featuring Mantilla's incredible polyrhythmic storm.

Originally published in December 2000
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