Jazz CD Reviews

Negroni’s Trio – On the Way – AA Records & Entertainment

It’s “All in the Family” for the Negroni’s mixture of Latin and progressive jazz.

Published on October 29, 2012

Negroni’s Trio – On the Way – AA Records & Entertainment

Negroni’s Trio – On the Way – AA Records & Entertainment AAX 1233, 51:34 ****:

(José Negroni – piano, co-producer; Nomar Negroni – drums, co-producer; Josh Allen – acoustic bass; Ed Calle – tenor and soprano saxophone (tracks 2, 5, 7-8); Federico Britos – violin (track 10))

There is often a particular bond between a father and a son. Sometimes such connections result in a relationship which goes outside of a familial link and into other ventures, such as a business or, in the case of Negroni’s Trio, it is a father/son friendship in a jazz group which combines Latin jazz, traditional jazz and lots of lyricism. Pianist José Negroni and his son, drummer Nomar Negroni, have fronted their trio for a decade, with a rotating circle of bassists. To celebrate ten years of musical collaboration, father and son have issued their seventh trio album, On the Way. Helping with this anniversary project is the trio’s newest member, bassist Josh Allen, as well as special guests. Fellow Miamian and saxophonist Ed Calle participates on four tracks (his credits include Gloria Estefan, Frank Sinatra and Arturo Sandoval as well as a few solo albums). Violinist Federico Britos, a leader in his own right who has performed with numerous Latin artists, takes part on the closing cut.

The Negronis decided to tape their latest material on the stage of Kendall Campus’ College Theater at Miami-Dade College, to capture a live feeling but in a controlled environment: their third album, Negroni’s Trio Live (2005) was also recorded in a similar way in a Florida theater. The two musicians explain the basis for this choice, and what it is like playing in the same group, during an online promotional video, which also has excerpts from the ten numbers which make up the 51-minute program. Eight of the ten pieces were penned by José Negroni; the other two are covers. The material which tends to stand out from the others showcases Calle’s tenor and soprano sax. “Matices” commences with a flowing, classically-tinted keyboard introduction which exhibits José Negroni’s explorative nature, a sentiment which is carried throughout the challenging composition.

While Afro-Cuban jazz underlines “Matices,” this is a modern effort, a contemporary outpouring highlighted by Calle’s intense and energetic phrasing, and heady rhythmic spins from José and Nomar. There is a comparable, lively quality to “Dancing with the Bass,” with superlative solos from Allen (who displays his melodic mannerism on a memorable improvisation) and Calle, who presents a soulful and impressionable tone light years removed from the mainstream jazz which has occasionally marred his releases. The longest cut, “Expressions,” is also a diverse creation, which shifts from a frantic stride to a romantic hum and back again, bounded by Calle’s sweetened but sometimes dramatically-disposed soprano sax and José Negroni’s post-bop inclinations, which also rush along at a fast clip. During “Expressions,” Negroni also generates a few, slower moments that have a sense of longing. “Looking for You” finds Calle once again on tenor on another rapid-fire, very uninhibited number, where Calle at times sounds like Ornette Coleman, throwing out chords at an anxious velocity. Anyone who only knows Calle’s smooth jazz product will be galvanized by what he does here. On the Way concludes with the introspective “Retrospection,” which features the dulcet assistance of Britos, who has an unaffected style akin to Stéphane Grappelli’s pleasing panache. The piano/violin interaction is superb and hopefully Britos can be used on future recordings.

The music pared down to bass, drums and piano is equally enthralling. “Oak Tree” is imbued with elements of tango, and progresses by means of an active tempo conveyed via the pianist’s adroit, right-hand buildups, and quick pacing from bass and drums. The interplay between Allen and Nomar Negroni is exciting to listen to, and the way José Negroni flies across the keyboard is amazing to hear. The trio proves it has a flair for interpretation on two covers. There is an elegant stateliness which permeates the threesome’s take of Italian composer Bruno Martino’s standard “Estate,” previously done by Chet Baker, Michel Petrucciani, Monty Alexander and many more. Another famous European classic, “Comme d’Habitude,” also gets translated: most probably know this tune by its English name, “My Way,” which was a huge hit for Sinatra. Theatrical trappings are scrapped, and instead Negroni’s Trio turns the oft-recorded track into a softly tumbling arrangement which demonstrates José Negroni’s sensitive side. On past endeavors, Negroni’s Trio has concentrated on Latin and Afro-Cuban inspirations. While those inborn influences also percolate throughout On the Way, the prevailing mood is progressive jazz, which attests to the fact that Negroni’s Trio has plenty to say and know how to say it. The next decade bodes well for this family outing.

TrackList: On the Way; Matices; Blue Forest; Estate; Dancing with the Bass; Oak Tree; Expressions; My Way; Looking for You; Retrospection.

—Doug Simpson




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