Charlie Sepulveda & the Turnaround
At age 20, Charlie Sepulveda earned the first trumpet slot in the band of another native New Yorker of Puerto Rican ancestry, heralded pianist Eddie Palmieri. Twenty-five years later, after working with stars from Dizzy Gillespie to Tito Puente, Sepulveda has further proof that his studies at City College of New York, and in Puerto Rico, were fruitful. He started a solo recording career in 1991, but has only seven CDs, partly because he’s been busy giving back as a professor at the Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico.
The latest, Charlie Sepulveda & the Turnaround, is an audio textbook in combining disparate studio crispness with concert energy. Sepulveda also studied at the conservatory, and at the Universidad de Puerto Rico. The university’s campus radio station, WRTU, has state-of-the-art digital equipment, so the trumpeter recorded the seven-piece band live in the studio.
Sepulveda covers vintage material by Lee Morgan (“Something Cute”), Herbie Hancock (“Chan’s Song”) and Freddie Hubbard (“Gibraltar”), bringing something new to each through creative arrangements. A band of this size requires attention to detail when recording live, but pianist Eduardo Zayas and vibraphonist Felipe Fournier keep Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ’Bout a Thing” creatively uncluttered by alternately setting up and answering Sepulveda and saxophonist Norberto Ortiz.
The trumpeter’s originals range from some of the disc’s most rhythmically simple (“Si tu Sabes”) to “Mr. Jazz,” his churning dedication to Puerto Rican radio host Wito Morales. Bassist Gabriel Rodriguez is a unifying force throughout the CD, and drummer Raul Maldonado and conguero Gadwin Vargas leave each other—and everyone else—just the right amount of space on Sepulveda’s complex “Bomba Pa’ Carmen.” The leader also adds muted trumpet on Mike Lee’s “Mo’ Better Blues,” and salutes Puente on Julio Gutierrez’s poignant “Mirame Mas.”