July/August 2003

Brass Roots
Purple Cha Cha Heels
Accurate Records

Latin-inflected jazz does not rely much-if ever-on minimalist good-humored resources as a steering guide. Brass Roots does so in Purple Cha Cha Heels (Accurate) with just composer, arranger and trombonist Jim "Mondongo" Messbauer, Tim Mayer on baritone sax & flute, trumpeter Scott Aruda, Russell Jewell on trombone and percussionist Ana Norgaard. The viral, chunky-sounding brass is obviously well acquainted with Spanish Caribbean tuneful lingoes, particularly Cuban-derived forms such as mambo, its concomitant guaguanco and cha cha cha . "Cruzin'," however, has a Dominican merengue central passage, and "Merengana" is outright merengue, with an initial classical piano teaser. "Carnival" is the only piece with a tightly driven Brazilian head and coda, squarely fitted amid a salsafied scrunchy trombone solo within its tumbao body. Furthermore, a brass quartet's doleful interpretation of "Those Who Trespass Against Us" has a classy upshot with quite a creepy trumpet-led emotiveness. Both Messbauer's writing and his arrangements are jovial, inventive, attractive and punch-drunk. While the performances are by necessity multitasked--as when the trombones establish piano-like montuno riffs or the baritone sax bottoms out bass lines--many will still not hear what is well said because they'll be looking for what is missing by design.

Originally published in July/August 2003

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