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Robby Ameen: Days in the Life

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Although he’s been a leading drummer on the Latin pop and jazz scene for over two decades, this is the first album where Robby Ameen has served as both leader and principal composer/arranger. Definitely a drummer’s date, it spotlights Ameen’s versatility, with the emphasis on Afro-Cuban rhythms and rocking beats. It’s not surprising that he and the CD’s bassist, Lincoln Goines, co-authored a method book titled Funkifying the Clave: Afro-Cuban Grooves for Bass and Drums. The pair is joined here by pianist/keyboardist John Beasley, a core trio expanded variously by guitarist Wayne Krantz, conguero Richie Flores, trombonist Conrad Herwig and trumpeter Brian Lynch.

Ameen’s originals veer from a pronounced rock/funk edge on electric quartet pieces like the fusiony “Swiftboating” and heavy-metal bashing “Skateboard Intifada” to horn-led tracks with a Latin jazz-soul feel such as “Una Muy Anita,” which resembles a standard on the album, Lee Morgan’s “Ceora.” That and the other jazz standard, Joe Farrell’s “Sound Down,” have the most memorable melodic lines, although Ameen’s pieces make up in atmosphere and action what they lack in tunefulness. “Stagger,” a medium to slow blues, finds Ameen creating distinctive rhythms with bundles rather than sticks or brushes; also on that track, Krantz’s distorted, whammy-bar-inflected phrases contrast the down-home acoustic bass and piano. “Baakline,” the only track with guitar and horns, creates a dense ensemble sound with added organ plus synth strings over a chugging backbeat and horn solos that overlap. The final track is a sizzling duet by Ameen and conguero Flores.

Originally Published