Cuba has an amazing impact on jazz players. Once the island’s rhythm sinks its teeth into an unsuspecting soul, he or she is immediately transformed. Such is the case with bassist-composer Harvie S, whose sojourn to the forbidden island prompted a mid-career change from straightahead to Latin jazz. In Funky Cha, his fourth release as a leader, “S” showcases the intimate setting of quartet with added percussion (on several tracks), although drummer William “Beaver” Bausch is fully able to maintain the Latin grooves on his own. While the recording is a bit dry, it comes across with the energy of a club performance.
The opener, Monk’s “Rhythm-A-Ning,” features a tasty solo by pianist Daniel Kelly, although his montuno-playing throughout might benefit from an injection of “Cuba juice.” Kelly’s compositional effort is noteworthy on the fourth track, “Earquake,” which features a probing bass solo by the leader along with nice harmonic twists and turns. “S” is the bassist’s guaguancó-jazz original with a sensitive melodic interpretation by Jay Collins on soprano, and the title track features a conga-less cha-cha with a groovy tenor solo. The haunting rendition of Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love” is by far the standout track (and also the least “Latin”), with a lovely dialog between guest trumpeter Philip Dizack and Collins on tenor. Overall, Funky Cha serves up tasty, acoustic Latin jazz.