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September 2004

David Chesky
The Body Acoustic
Chesky Records

The Body Acoustic is like going to a master class on the art of Afro-Cuban swing. Pianist David Chesky has put together an inspired group of musicians who collectively offer thoughtful ruminations on jazz and the clave, and the star of the show is bassist Andy Gonzalez. A prolific Afro-Cuban and jazz musician, Gonzales has been the first call session man for authentic clave-based jazz and dance music for more than 30 years. On this CD he is as much a part of the front melodic line as trumpeter Randy Brecker and bass clarinetist Bob Mintzer with his incomparable mastery of the Cuban tumbao (bass pattern). Receiving second billing on this record is conga master Giovanni Hidalgo. Properly played and tuned, the conga can reinforce the deep groove of the bassist and add embellishments that can put the pep in the step of a good groove. This one-two combination is what makes your hips want to sway when you hear this music.

On The Body Acoustic Gonzalez and Hidalgo do that and more as they provide a supple foundation for the equally adventurous solos and ensemble playing for the rest of the group. Brecker's trumpet pays tribute to both jazz and Cuban styles. Mintzer's bass clarinet is a great texture to add to the mix (reminds me of the brooding exploratory bass clarinet of Bitches Brew). Chesky's piano is the key that ties it all together. He does so not with Afro-Cuban guajeos or bebop comps but with tasteful and well-paced melodies and solos that take more from classical music. His compositions also provide the freedom for the rest to explore and groove.

Gonzalez recently had an unexpected bout with the complications of diabetes. That fact that he is recovering and expected to play again soon is great news, and his work on The Body Acoustic is a reminder of why.

Originally published in September 2004
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