Jeff Niess & Ensemble Siete: Evolution

It was inevitable: “Take Five” was bound to surface in 4/4 time. Surprisingly, the reincarnation takes place in a Latin context on Jeff Niess and Ensemble Siete’s Evolution (Mambo Maniacs). Translating the famous tune, arranger/ bassist Abiud Troche and pianist Elio Villafranca maintain rhythmic phrases of dotted quarter and eighth notes tied to half notes. Villafranca bypasses the usual “Take Five” vamp before the solos and instead inserts a montuno. And all this comes shortly after Troche converts Toots Thielemans’ “Bluesette” from 3/4 to 4/4!

Neither of those experiments is as successful as vibist Niess’ arrangement of Duke Jordan’s “Jordu,” probably because the familiar pick-up notes fall on a mambo cushion of timbales, conga, guiro, bongo, clave and assorted percussion toys. The CD’s balance is comprised of pure mambos, with the metronome set rigidly to dance tempos. Niess’ arrangements and originals are first-class, but he takes only a few, short solos on vibes so that an evaluation of his chops is impossible.