Luis Bonilla | I Talking Now

NJCO/Planet Arts (2009)
By JON GARELICK  |  September 2, 2009
3.0 3.0 Stars

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Sometimes even the fanciest jazz virtuosity can sound routine, if for no other reason than that we've heard it all before. Veteran trombonist Bonilla's quintet date has a surface resemblance to meat-and-potatoes bop, but it crackles with spontaneity at every turn.

When he and the band take off on the breakneck opening title cut, it's all they can do to keep up with it, as Bonilla's trombone chortles and brays over the start-stop opening theme. But then there are sequential duos for drummer John Riley with Bonilla and with Ivan Renta's tenor sax, and Arturo O'Farrill's stunning mixed-up patterns over high-velocity swing by Riley and bassist Andy McKee — from silky smooth runs to knuckle-busting out-there flurries.

When you're not getting hooked by a funky vamp or sheer speed, there's the shapely tunefulness of each piece. And there's delicacy, too. "Closer Still" could be one of Mingus's fantasies on Ellington, with Bonilla blowing obbligato embellishments alongside Renta's long-lined solo. Arrangements keep turning in unexpected directions, like the way the gentle flute-and-bass-solo opening of "No Looking Back" shifts into some hard funk and the argumentative "I Talking Now" resolves in an extended, genial coda.

They call jazz "the sound of surprise," and sometimes it still is.

  Topics: CD Reviews , Arturo O'Farrill, Arturo O'Farrill, John Riley,  More more >
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