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Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet: Intercambio

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Wayne Wallace is a fine trombonist but a better bandleader, and an exceptional conceptualist. His ingenious knack for re-contextualizing bop standards using Latin idioms, or simply splicing cultures guided by his instincts and imagination, turns the song list on Intercambio into a steady series of surprises that are each distinctively delightful. Miles Davis’ “Solar” opens and closes with three vocalists and a driving clave rhythm. John Coltrane’s “Equinox” features flute, violin and trombone passages (separate and together) orbiting around the bata drum, taking the blues-inflected theme into an Afro-Cuban finale. Dizzy Gillespie’s “Algo Bueno” (a.k.a. “Woody n’ You”) is spun into a Puerto Rican bomba with Trinidadian steel drum. A four-trombone frontline moves with deft grace on a Latinized version of J.J. Johnson’s “Shutterbug,” and thickens the already creamy hooks that made Hoagy Carmichael’s “Heart and Soul” a pop hit in multiple decades.

As you may have deduced, the billing of Latin Jazz Quintet refers just to the core ensemble players who are on every track. Eight of the 10 songs feature at least eight musicians and two Wallace originals go well beyond that. The first, “Guarachando,” is a tribute to the street parades of Mardi Gras and Carnaval, with a raft of brass, percussion, and vocals sliding in and out of the spotlight, gilded by the piquant tones of flute, violin and steel drum. The second, “Timbazo,” mates Cuban timba music with the taut beats of James Brown-style funk.

Wallace’s liner notes are informative about his intentions, but the music also speaks for itself. “Como Vai,” for instance, is helpfully described as a mash-up of the Cuban cha-cha and the Brazilian samba, but more viscerally, it is a wonderful spot to go swimming through David Belove’s enormous basslines. In the end, the head, the heart and the feet all get nourished on Intercambio.

Originally Published