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Jimmy Haslip: Red Heat

For years bassist Jimmy Haslip has been the rhythmic rock of the Yellowjackets, and a serious technical pioneer and innovative interpreter on his unique seven-stringed instrument. Though Haslip is a frequent guest player for a host of rock, jazz and R&B luminaries, his solo flights are rare and special. Following up on 1993’s masterful Arc comes something (not surprisingly) completely different with Red Heat (Unitone 137-4802-2; 53:55), an exploration of the artist’s Puerto Rican heritage, crafted in tribute to his late father. Though surrounded with percolating rhythms, Latin piano figures and bustling horns, Haslip’s bass is the album’s strong center, an otherworldly singing voice on the pristine “Laguna,” a fluid, melee-breaking ray of light on “Los Feliz.” Perfect counterpoints are found in masters like percussionist Luis Conte and flutist Justo Almario, who lend a whirling, Afro-Cuban rhythmic elegance to the languid-paced “Calle del Sol.” Likewise vocalists Alex Alvear and Chiara Civello provide an organic sharpness to the sweeping, dreamlike atmosphere of “Vaya.” Haslip immerses the listener completely in this rich musical culture, through the hypnotic, ever-moving backbeat of “Novellas,” which wanders and captivates, the mysterious harmonies and dark/light tone contrasts of “El Morro” and the soaring optimism of “The Red Sun (El Sol Colorado),” with its squishy synth bass.

Originally Published