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Brian Lynch and Spheres of Influence: ConClave Vol. 2

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Trumpeter Brian Lynch’s latest release with his Spheres of Influence band demonstrates the state of jazz bilingualism. The jazz spheres that influenced Lynch most heavily-straight-ahead hard bop and Latin-are personified in two heroes who employed him early on, Art Blakey and Eddie Palmieri. Lynch and his sometime collaborator, trombonist Conrad Herwig, were among the first crop of musicians to come up planting themselves in both traditions so thoroughly, but now such grounding is becoming common.

Witness Lynch’s smoking young band here, a sextet consisting half of Cubans (alto saxophonist Yosvany Terry, pianist Manuel Valera, percussionist Pedro Martinez) and half of gents from cities scattered across the U.S. (bassist Luques Curtis, Hartford; drummer Justin Brown, Oakland; Lynch himself, Milwaukee). You want straight-ahead? Check out their cover of Kenny Dorham’s “Blue Friday,” particularly the funky solos by Curtis and Valera. The Lynch original “Dance the Way U Want To” dates back to an earlier recording made just after his run with Blakey, and would have felt at home in the Messengers’ songbook; this time out Lynch kicks the Latin flavor up a notch with an extra handful of Afro-Cuban rhythmic spiciness. Those Afro-Cuban influences are even more in play in Lynch’s four newer originals-“The Downside of Upspeak,” “With a Single Step,” “Magenta’s Return,” “One for Armida”-whose various complexities the musicians master with fluency and aplomb.

The Miles Davis classic “Solar” gets the strongest Latin treatment, Lynch having been down this road before with Herwig on the live disc Sketches of Spain y Mas. Terry, Lynch, Curtis and Valera each take strong solo turns, and Martinez runs wild over a piano vamp toward the tune’s end. The heat gets turned down for Charles Tolliver’s “Truth,” with Valera and Curtis adding quiet solos to a leisurely beauty of an opener from Lynch.

Originally Published