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October 2007

Roswell Rudd & Yomo Toro
El Espiritu Jibaro
Sunnyside

It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: Yomo Toro is an impressive guitarist. The Puerto Rican virtuoso flits effortlessly from note to note, blurring time while remaining fluidly funky. His acoustic soloing evokes the speed and delicacy of hummingbird wings, yet it is angular and forceful, as well. It has to be. On El Espiritu Jibaro, the septuagenarian plays not only with trombonist Roswell Rudd, a veteran of New Thing groups such as New York Art Quartet and Liberation Music Orchestra, but also with percussionist Bobby Sanabria and Ascension, a 26-piece ensemble that might swallow a lesser guitarist with its enormous sound. The Roswell- and Toro-augmented group whips up a bitches brew of Latin burners and ballads. Both are largely instrumental and largely showcases for the headliners.

Trombone and acoustic guitar might not seem like the most natural pairing, but Rudd once worked with musicologist Alan Lomax, and one gets the sense that he’s as much a fan as a participant. His own trombone playing has seldom sounded so good. Its rubbery slur works well here, substituting nicely for the trumpet you might expect to hear in its place. But he’s no match for Toro’s pyrotechnics. No matter how good the rest of the band sounds—and Ascension is no doubt an instant dance party wherever it goes—he can’t help but elevate the setting. He’s that good.

Originally published in October 2007
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