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Mark Weinstein: Latin Jazz Underground

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In the liner notes to Latin Jazz Underground, flutist Mark Weinstein explains that he aims to “show that you could really stretch the boundaries while holding onto the Afro-Cuban core.” He nails it. The album, a collaboration with pianist Aruán Ortiz, explores free and open improvisations, yet clave, samba harmony and folk elements permeate it.

These, too, are accomplished with great cunning. Drummer Gerald Cleaver and percussionist Román Diaz maintain the clave in the searching free sections of “Gregorio’s Mood,” and on both Ortiz’s “Tete’s Blues” and Sam Rivers’ “Mellifluous Cacophony,” they lay down interlocking beats that sound arrhythmic, even arbitrary, until a pattern gradually emerges. When Cleaver and Diaz, along with bassist Rashaan Carter, break free on “Open or Close,” an unidentified voice maintains the spirit with Afro-Cuban chants behind Weinstein’s cerebral lines.

Though he joins the indigenous grooves, Carter travels the music’s open paths just as often. He follows Weinstein and Ortiz carefully on “Gregorio’s Mood,” and employs tense staccato in his own skewed, melodic solos on “Dance of the Tripedal” and “For Emilio.”

It’s the flute and piano that provide the album’s character, however, and they do this via contrast. Weinstein’s improvisations are mellower, with great care and intrigue; his bass flute seems to be emerging from hibernation on “For Emilio,” while on “Mark’s Last Tune” he slips in under the rhythm section and slowly rises like a snake to the charmer. Ortiz summons more energy and flair, with his speed and bluesy zeal becoming motifs in and of themselves on “Tete’s Blues.” But somehow, they work with the Latin devices. As he has for 50 years, Weinstein demonstrates on Latin Jazz Underground that he understands Afro-Cuban jazz inside out.

Originally Published