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Harvie S: Texas Rumba

Harvie S (formerly Swartz) is proof that you can reinvent yourself. Along with losing the rest of his last name he seems to have lost his substantial history as a straightahead jazz bassist as well. But Harvie S’s turn toward a strictly Afro-Cuban musical path is not as out of step as it would seem. His work with an impressive list of jazz’s A-list (Dexter Gordon, Sheila Jordan, Grover Washington Jr.) was the best training ground for his second act. The best Afro-Cuban jazz bassists, like Bobbie Rodriguez (Machito, Tito Puente) and Andy Gon-zalez (Ft. Apache, Eddie Palmieri), not only locked down the slightly-off-the-beat tumbao, they were also jazzers at heart who brought jazz sensibilities to their groove.

The bassist’s previous two discs marked his entry into Afro-Cuban music. Texas Rumba is a live workout of the core group he assembled to make those CDs: pianist Daniel Kelly, saxophonist Scott Robert Avidon, trumpeter Gregory Rivkin, drummer Adam Weber and conguero Renato Thoms. Like a handful of other groups, their music is played in clave but it is not slave to it. Percussionist Ray Barretto calls it “jazz-Latin,” and that is an apt description of what Harvie S has achieved here.

While they start the CD with a couple of clave-inspired numbers, the highlights are later. Kelly’s solo piano on “Momentaneo” segues to a decidedly non-Latin bass piano duet, then to a very tipico mambo, moving on to Harvie S’s solo take of “Monk’s Mood.” The exploration “Underneath It All” dominates the middle section, and a solo bass piece ends the CD and is exactly the breather needed to assess the situation: Did we just hear jazz or Latin music? But like the best Latin-jazz bands out there, Texas Rumba makes that question moot.

Originally Published