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Humberto Ramirez: Miles Latino

Humberto Ramirez plays to his head-solo-head strengths on Miles Latino. Predictably, this midtempo, straightahead Latin-jazz homage to Miles Davis-the first entire recording from such a musical perspective-deals with Davis’ pre-fusion repertoire, reinterpreted along several Cuban rhythmic lines. For this task, Ramirez harnessed Michael Brecker, Edward Simon, John Benitez, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez and Richie Flores into an ensemble. Melodically, the standards are interpreted close to their original sources, hence their attractive and lingering character. Ramirez-who is the most active and successful jazz musician based in Puerto Rico-didn’t have to work too hard to rework the harmonies into his preferred tonal midrange. Furthermore, the original tempos favor low sizzling heated performances and, as such, are advantageously appropriated by Ramirez in his listener-friendly arrangements.

The only original on the date is Ramirez’s “Transcendental.” Its Milesian guaguanco head segues into a moderate cha body whereupon Simon-whose piano playing throughout the recording is particularly rich and inviting-precedes one of several densely larded bass solos from Benitez.

As the special guest, Brecker only performs on three cuts. He eats up “Straight, No Chaser” with ease. On “So What,” a swirling, ascending Simon piano figure eases Brecker’s hardened bop lexicon, giving way to eventual sharpened pulses and energetic passages in his soloing. “Four” features the most animated moments of Ramirez’s playing, which are met most effectively by Brecker before they hit a jamming chorus featuring trades between Hernandez and Flores-whose annoying and tasteless bongo hyperactivity on “My Funny Valentine” and “‘Round Midnight” are a lesson on where, when and how not to put it.

Originally Published