The subtitle of Madera Latino is “a Latin-jazz perspective on the music of Woody Shaw.” He was a groundbreaking innovator whose use of fourth intervals and pentatonic scales created a new trumpet language. Shaw also left behind a body of strong compositions. Most of them are hard-charging anthems, calls to arms.
The first thing you notice about Brian Lynch’s tribute album is how natural these tunes sound in a Latin rhythmic environment. Shaw often used Afro-Cuban elements in his music, but Lynch’s arrangements make the clave infusion complete. The second thing you notice, from the opener, “Zoltan,” is that Shaw’s music has new power. The energy generated by four percussionists (Obed Calvaire/Little Johnny Rivero/Pedrito Martinez/Anthony Carrillo) comes in jolts, like adrenaline. Most tracks have two percussionists and still kick ass. The third thing you notice is that Lynch decided to binge on trumpet players. No less than nine rotate through this album, two to four per tune. They are Lynch himself, Dave Douglas, Michael Rodriguez, Sean Jones, Diego Urcola, Josh Evans, Etienne Charles, Philip Dizack and Bryan Davis.
“On the New Ark” is for Shaw’s hometown, Newark, N.J. Charles goes first. He smokes it. He sprays the song with trumpet bullets. Then Douglas smears it around. Then Lynch carries it aloft. The wild trades before the end will satisfy even rabid trumpet junkies. “Song of Songs” is chariot music. The solos of Lynch, Evans and Rodriguez are all different, but all make you see chariots rolling majestically into the Colosseum.
The quality of trumpet work from these nine players, in the ensembles and solo after solo, is outstanding. The album never feels like a cutting session. They all pick up on one another’s ideas and elaborate them, in turn. But “elaborate” is too dispassionate a term. They all spill their guts. None sounds like Woody Shaw, although some may incorporate more wide intervals than usual into their solos, in honor of the occasion. And in the unrelenting passion of this project, they all draw upon the fire that is Shaw’s legacy. In that sense they are all keepers of his flame.