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02/23/12

Jerry González Y El Comando De La Clave
Jerry González Y El Comando De La Clave
Sunnyside

After settling in Madrid in 2000, in part as the result of his involvement in Spanish director and producer Fernando Trueba’s film Calle 54, Nuyorican trumpeter and conguero Jerry González became a hub of flamenco-jazz activity. Jerry González Y El Comando De La Clave marks González’s debut on record with his Madrid-based quartet: Javier “Caramelo” Massó, on piano; Alain Pérez, bass; Kiki Ferrer, drums; and Alberto “Chele” Cobo, claves. (Diego el Cigala makes an appearance on Tito Rodriguez’s classic “Avísale A Mi Contrario.”)

In González’s work, innovation and tradition are never far apart. Here, the model is not a jazz ensemble but Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, the exemplary Cuban rumba group. And why not? In the liner notes González writes, “I’ve always said that if John Coltrane had known Los Muñequitos de Matanzas they [would] have been the perfect rhythm section for him.”

Jerry González Y El Comando De La Clave certainly puts his notions of jazz standards and rumba matancera (processed via the Bronx and Madrid) to the test, and the results are intriguing. In the opening “Someday My Prince Will Come,” slyly retitled here “Some Day My Prints Will Come (Back From the FBI),” the first go-round plays out as rather conventional, if well-executed, Latin jazz, with González blowing over a rumba-tinged groove. But the group turns on a dime into a cha cha cha for Massó’s eloquent piano solo, then shifts again, now into a rumba guaguancó for Pérez (who gives his solo a flamenco flavor) and an unexpected vocal chorus before circling back to the initial Latin-jazz feel.

Also, standards such as “In a Sentimental Mood,” “Love for Sale” and Coltrane’s “Resolution” are re-contextualized as rumbas. Meanwhile, “Tenderly,” played as a straight slow ballad with González on flugelhorn, offers a nice change of pace. And González can’t resist revisiting “Obsesión,” a staple of his repertoire with his Fort Apache Band and a highlight of his earlier Jerry Gonzalez Y Los Piratas Del Flamenco.

Originally published in January/February 2012
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