DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

The Banda Brothers – Primavera, Blu-ray (2013)

Latin jazz band delivers in brilliant HD audio and video.

Published on April 30, 2013

The Banda Brothers – Primavera, Blu-ray (2013)

Performers: Destani Wolf – vocals; Nando Perez – vocals; Ron Eschete – guitar; Nanilo Lozano – flute; Tom Catanzaro – saxophone; Joe Bagg – organ; Chris Barron – piano; Alberto Salas – piano; Rene Camacho – bass; Joey De Leon – congas; Ramon Banda – drums, percussion [TrackList below]
Studio: Aix Records AIX 85050 [1/29/13] (Distr. by Naxos)
Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9 1080i HD
Audio: PCM 2.0 (96 kHz/24-bit); Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (96 kHz/24-bit) (Audience Mix or Stage Mix); DD 5.1; 2-Channel FLAC (96 kHz/24-bit); MP3 (320 kbps); Headphone Surround Mix (48kHz/24-bit)
Length: 65 minutes
Ratings:     Video: ****           Audio: *****

Raised in California, brothers Ramon and Tony Banda were part of a family heritage. Before the age of ten, they were playing with their uncle, Mike Chavarria, at house parties, weddings and dances across Southern California. They were influenced by a wide variety of musical styles, including traditional Mexican, rhythm and blues, Latin “cha-cha” and jazz. As sideman, the brothers graced the jazz world with such diverse artists as Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Cal Tjader, Celia Cruz, Ray Charles, Mongo Santamaria, Ry Cooder, Jackson Browne, Eddie Harris, and many others. In 1996, they formed their own band, The Banda Brothers, and established their own legacy.

AIX Records has released a Blu-ray studio performance of this illustrious band. Primavera, shot in hi-def and utilizing multichannel 96 kHz/24 bit analog-to-digital conversion is an audiophile delight. The group performs eight scintillating jazz pieces in several instrumental formats. Opening the studio “performance” is a bluesy romp, “Fried Pies”.  Fronting a trio, guitarist Ron Eschete executes a tight flowing groove. Joe Bagg delivers fluid runs on the organ, as Ramon Banda provides a cohesive drum anchor. Turning to bop, Sonny Stitt’s “Eternal Triangle” is hard-driving with Tom Catanzano assuming lead on tenor saxophone accompanied by Banda, Rene Camacho (doublebass) and piano rounding out the quartet. In another change of pace (and there are many) the title track is warm and expressive. Vocalist Destani Wolf contributes an intriguing throaty vocal against a mellow, though rhythmic, jam. Danilo Lozano brings a South American vibe with his breezy turn on flute.

All of the musicians are first-rate. On an original composition (“When I Was There”), pianist Chris Barron evokes the meditative eloquence of Bill Evans. His combination of left-hand chords and right-hand notation is dynamic. Eschete and the trio return for a cover of “Sweet Lorraine”. There is an underlying rhythm (thanks to Banda), that frames the song in a sprightly playful mode. The final pair of tunes (“Song For My Lydia” and “El Swing”) are percolating, and emphasize intricate syncopated tempos. Banda and Joey De Leon (congas) explode with percussive force in these festive Cuban-jazz translations.

The HD video quality is excellent. There are a cadre of overhead shots, instrumental close-ups (especially on drums and piano), and different visual angles. The editing is crisp and avoids any monotony. The different audio mixes are masterful. All of the instrumental tonality sounds full and textured. Eschete’s guitar is crisp, with superb clarity. Drums and congas flow with the other instruments. Even at increased volume levels, the sound is impeccable. There is a special 5.1 “stage” mix that is designed for headphone use.

TrackList: Fried Pies; The Eternal Triangle; Primavera; Bolivia; When I Was There; Sweet Lorraine; Song For My Lydia; El Swing

–Robbie Gerson




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