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Brass Roots: Purple Cha Cha Heels

Latin-inflected jazz does not rely much-if ever-on minimalist good-humored resources as a steering guide. Brass Roots does so in Purple Cha Cha Heels (Accurate) with just composer, arranger and trombonist Jim “Mondongo” Messbauer, Tim Mayer on baritone sax & flute, trumpeter Scott Aruda, Russell Jewell on trombone and percussionist Ana Norgaard. The viral, chunky-sounding brass is obviously well acquainted with Spanish Caribbean tuneful lingoes, particularly Cuban-derived forms such as mambo, its concomitant guaguanco and cha cha cha . “Cruzin’,” however, has a Dominican merengue central passage, and “Merengana” is outright merengue, with an initial classical piano teaser. “Carnival” is the only piece with a tightly driven Brazilian head and coda, squarely fitted amid a salsafied scrunchy trombone solo within its tumbao body. Furthermore, a brass quartet’s doleful interpretation of “Those Who Trespass Against Us” has a classy upshot with quite a creepy trumpet-led emotiveness. Both Messbauer’s writing and his arrangements are jovial, inventive, attractive and punch-drunk. While the performances are by necessity multitasked–as when the trombones establish piano-like montuno riffs or the baritone sax bottoms out bass lines–many will still not hear what is well said because they’ll be looking for what is missing by design.

Originally Published