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Mark Levine and the Latin Tinge: Isla

Isla (Left Coast Clave) is the third release of Mark Levine & the Latin Tinge. He is the author of two commended books on jazz piano and holder of credits with mainstream jazz figures and several Latin legends. Coupled with Michael Spiro on percussion, drummer Paul van Wageningen and bassist Peter Barshay, the pianist luckily invited Harvey Wainapel on soprano sax and clarinet on “Isla” and “Seis Pa’ Chuito.” There is no original material from the group, which chooses to rearrange jazz standards and instantly recognizable North American musical lore instead. Many, nonetheless, will be unfamiliar with the Puerto Rican and Cuban residue in “Corta Ese [sic] Bonche,” “Isla” and “Seis Pa’ Chuito.” The first integrates a bomba head and coda, comfortably bracing an energetic montuno passage. Therein, an engorged bass passage precedes a tasty Spiro conga solo, while Levine has shining moments showing excellent control of the original’s melodic and harmonic richness. The latter is a fortunate reappraisal of Jose Lugo’s seis homage to “Chuito”-a traditional Puerto Rican countryside singer. The title cut stems from an obscure Cuban pianist of note among those knowledgeable. It adds a “007-in-Havana” flavor to Isla’s uncomplicated yet enjoyable Latin jazz.

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