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Ignacio Berroa: Codes

Cuban drummer Ignacio Berroa has played with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard, Mario Bauza, Tito Puente and Gonzalo Rubalcaba, but he’s never recorded as a leader himself. On his long-overdue debut, the 52-year-old Berroa shows that he is equally adept at straight eighth-note swing and Afro-Cuban clave, often seamlessly blending both vernaculars into one organic whole, as on his bilingual interpretations of Chick Corea’s “Matrix,” Ernesto Lecuona’s Cuban classic “La Comparsa,” Wayne Shorter’s “Pinocchio” and Dizzy’s “Woody ‘n’ You.”

Coproducer Rubalcaba, whose trio Berroa has been anchoring for the past several years, offers his inimitable touch and virtuosic flair on acoustic piano on four tracks, including a highly charged take on “Pinocchio,” the Brazilian classic “Partido Alto” and Berroa’s lone original, the hypnotic “Joao Su Merced,” which is propelled by a battery of special guest percussionists: Philbert Armenteros, Santiago Nani and Jorge Iglesias. Rubalcaba also provides potent synth lines on three tracks, including “Matrix” and “Pinocchio.” Tenor saxophonist David Sanchez contributes brilliantly on Jobim’s introspective ballad “Inutil Paisagem (Useless Landscapes),” the spacious “Partido Alto” and the Cubanized rendition of “Woody ‘n’ You,” arranged by pianist Ed Simon.

The real find of this session is Felipe LaMoglia, who soars with unrestrained passion on soprano sax on the exhilarating “Joao Su Merced,” “Partido Alto” and “Pinocchio.” He also offers some smoky tenor work on the old Cuban bolero “Realidad y Fantasia,” which is underscored by Rubalcaba’s delicate, lyrical piano and Berroa’s alluring brushwork and coloristic cymbal statements.

Originally Published