Thursday, October 19, 2017

Bill O’Connell Monk's Cha Cha

Bill O’Connell
Monk's Cha Cha
Savant Records

Bill O'Connell 40 year career, where he has contributed substantial to both jazz and the Afro-Cuban musical traditions, including a stint with Mongo Santamaria and engagements with such hallowed improvisers as Sonny Rollins, Chet Baker, Gato Barbieri and Emily Remler. He also has a long working relationship with the late bassist Charles Fambrough that produced four recordings. Bill O'Connell latest recording is a solo recording from a solo performance at the Carnegie-Farian Room at the Nyack (NY) Library. Five of the nine selections are O'Connell originals, with four interpretations of standards.

The swinging opening "The Song is You" provides the first taste of the lyricism and improvisatory invention that O'Connell invests in his performance with his chords mix in with flowing arpeggios as he explores the familiar melody in several fashions. The following rendition of "Dindi" is a more pensive approach to Jobim's classic that illustrates his use of dynamics. The classic ballad, "It Could Happen To You" also exhibits his ability to extract so much from a melody, yet play in  a spare manner. The title track intertwines an evocation of "Misterioso" and "Well You Needn't," with him providing spicy Afro-Cuban flavor with his right hand. One might imagine the joyfulness of a performance by The Latin Jazz All-Stars, that he leads, on this composition. The striking, "Zip Line" has a lively tone, while "Hither Hills" is a lovely, reflective performance.

Among the remaining performances is a scintillating rendition of Mongo Santamaria's classic "Afro Blue." This is a fine homage to the gentleman who allowed him as a young man to hone his skills as a pianist, composer and arranger. Decades later, the performances here show just how he has further developed, producing this exceptional solo piano recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a Latin Jazz band rendition of the title track of this solo piano recording.

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