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Ruben Gutierrez: Beveled Facets

I invested many hours listening to this in search for something that would allow me to recommend it. I am afraid I have come up empty-handed. It does present evidence that there is an active Latin or Latin-jazz scene in places other than New York and Los Angeles, active enough to produce musicians and labels willing to invest time and money in documenting this burgeoning movement. But access to a studio and a CD plant does not guarantee a product that merits much attention.

Ruben Gutierrez, from the music department of the University of Texas at El Paso, has produced a debut disc with a very nice selection of standard tunes-“The Way You Look Tonight,” “I’ll Be Seeing You,” “Secret Love”-along with a handful of originals. The trouble is he doesn’t entirely understand the phrasing, the timing, the core of whatever it is that makes Latin music Latin. And the band he has assembled often has problems with rhythms and tempi: at times they are just not playing together and it’s often downright sloppy. The addition of his wife’s vocals on three tracks adds nothing to this already unfocused mix.

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