April 2000

Los Hombres Calientes

Jason Marsalis had no great expectations for Los Hombres Calientes’ Volume 1, the precursor to the group’s latest, Volume 2, on the Basin Street Records label.

Volume 1 had come about quickly, if not haphazardly. The group, which also features trumpeter Irvin Mayfield and percussionist Bill Summers, had been experimenting with Latin rhythms while performing at Snug’s Harbor, a famed New Orleans night spot, when the recording came together.

“Everything about Volume One was rushed—it literally came together after three days,” says the 22-year-old drummer and youngest of the Marsalis brothers. “Our goal this time around was to make a better recording that not only reflects how much we have grown as a unit, but we also wanted to explore different genres and rhythms.” And it’s from this richness and difference that Volume 2 gets its energy and joie de vivre. The recording explores a variety of styles and sounds, from jazz to mambo to funk. It is, as Summers describes, “a quest to bring the musical world together.” The spirit of utter and total cooperation within each song is obvious, erupting into fully fleshed-out meditations with unifying regularity. No song epitomizes that spirit better than “Cuban Spirit Pt. 1” and “Pt. 2,” composed by the 21-year-old Mayfield, whose trumpet soars with crystalline clarity. A cool resolve washes over the style of Summers, who is one of the most versatile percussionists on the planet, performing in nearly every context imaginable.

Volume 2 doesn’t rely on ragged individualism and besieging the listener with unrelenting solos; instead the group plays in tight unison, reaching for breathtaking rhythmical variations. “We all brought something different to the recordings,” said Marsalis. “Bill was able to bring the diversity to the music... Irvin is rooted in the New Orleans trumpet history and I think this record shows that. I still have a lot to learn, but I’ve been blessed with the right information.”

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