Publication: All About Jazz
Author: Mark F. Turner
The fledgling Marsalis Music Label celebrates another anniversary with sophomore releases by two of its most exciting young artists: Bluestate by guitarist Doug Wamble and Jíbaro by saxophonist Miguel Zenón. Their debuts recordings were well received by the jazz community by delivering music filled with diversity and fresh outlooks. One of the key freedoms allowed by producer Branford Marsalis to these artists was to let them simply be themselves and channel there own ideas and experiences into the music and the mindset continues on these noteworthy recordings.
Doug Wamble – Bluestate - Marsalis Music - 2005: If you thought that Wamble’s style of mixing jazz, blues, gospel, and popular music was just a fluke; then think again because his new recording proclaims that he is for real. What continues to impress, is his abilities as a singer, guitar picker, and improviser. With equal strengths the question is asked: Does he sing better or does he play guitar better? The unqualified answer is simply yes on both counts. Whereas his acclaimed debut Country Libation offered the obligatory “get to know me” recording; Bluestate has a more focused and relaxed vibe due to the return of his longtime band members, who are now given more of a chance to show their wares with fine performances as things open up on the socially conscious “If I Live to See the Day” with Wamble’s dissonant vocals layered against a jazzy and upbeat melody interspersed with solid solos. The music is fueled with a touch of soul and spirituality on the lamenting yet beautiful ballad “Washing of the Water” written by Peter Gabriel and a burning rendition of the Negro Spiritual “Rockin’ In Jerusalem” featuring Branford Marsalis on saxophone filled with gospel and hard bop goodness with extended solos and soulful vocals. Make no mistake • this is a serious jazz band with nifty instrumental pieces like the groovy “Homewrecker Hump,” “No More Schrubs in Casablanca,” and the nod to bluegrass on “The Bear and the Toad” as they serve up jazz - “Southern-fried” style on this outstanding and progressive release.
Miguel Zenón – Jíbaro - Marsalis Music - 2005: With its many prescribed definitions - Jazz music is about having roots. The second release by saxophonist Miguel Zenón explores Jíbaro (pronounced He-bar-ro) the music roots of his rural homeland in Puerto Rico with new sounds that are extracted and infused with his own ideas in this most captivating recording. Continuing on the heels of 2004’s promising Ceremonial ; Jíbaro shows that Miguel is one of the many shining lights in jazz music today with fresh concepts, and fluid angularity from his slightly acidic-toned alto. Zenón’s “dream band” returns with Luis Perdomo on acoustic piano and Fender Rhodes, Hans Glawischnig on bass and Antonio Sánchez on drums. They have gelled to a consistency of consummate musicianship and the ten compositions incorporate traditional Jíbaro music and modern jazz with stunning results. The almost tribal-like cadence of ‘Seis Cinco,” the festive atmosphere of “Punto Cubano,” or the majestic beauty of “Aquinaldo;” each piece is imbued with complex patterns, colorful rhythms, and Zenón’s fresh perspective. Superb contributions from the band abound with pianist Perdomo who is also a key member in Ravi Coltrane’s quartet providing some if his most elegant and gutsy work to date backed by the taut and dynamic rhythm section of Glawischnig and Sánchez on “Villaran” and “Llanera” as Zenón’s alto burns brightly. His soloing on “Marianda” is spacious, free, and as the recording concludes with the infectious title piece “Jíbaro” it simply leaves the listener wanting more.