Afro Bop Alliance

Revelation

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MUSIC REVIEW BY Carol Banks Weber, AXS

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Drummer Joe McCarthy brought out the big guns for the Afro Bop Alliance's next album, Revelation. There's nothing like an Afro-Cuban big band. Throw in four excellent steel pan players, including the return of Victor Provost (2014's Angel Eyes) in the lead, and you've got yourself another winning jazz showcase of larger-than-life performances and stellar, large ensemble songwriting.

Set for a Sept. 16, 2016 release, Revelation's seven original instrumentals feature the Afro Bop Alliance Big Band - expanded from its original septet - making grandiose gestures, with a world class vision. Director McCarthy continues to guide the Latin Grammy Award-winning Afro Bop Alliance crew on the sixth release, and third for the big band format.

Provost, conductor Roland Vazquez, tenor saxophonist Luis Hernandez, and lead alto/soprano saxophonist Vince Norman, with McCarthy, contributed their own original tunes to the mix.

The 33-piece big band is vibrant, individualistic and unified when it counts. On Provost's show-stopping, Afro-Cuban/Caribbean number, "Magharibi," the big band musicians all bring it in for a most unified, global sensation. It's the best of American big band with a tremendous, seamless global influence in the steel pan inflections, the Afro-Cuban syncopation, and the gentle waves of the steel pan calling to mind days and nights on the beach, with a live salsa band just outside an intimate gathering's reach.

They all float on a wonderful, universal-sounding melody that climbs ever higher, a spiritually uplifting gospel without restriction. The horn section arrives and then recedes in waves, making way for the steel pan players - everything underscored in a 1930s-'40s big band era sensibility, wrapped with an exotic Havana bow.

The opening number, "CuBop," takes its cue from the original name of the band. Vince Norman and Joe McCarthy co-wrote the undulating ode to Afro-Cuban post-bop. There's a soaring majesty to most of the pieces in this new album, especially this one. Riding on a memorable, catchy melody, the horns do their job of fleshing out the dynamics and the rhythm section - pianist Harry Appelman deserves a special calling out for dropping in the swank - underscores that all this globalization comes from jazz.

A steel pan bridge covers plenty of Afro-Cuban ground before the horns slip in, absorbing the exotic into its big band jazz umbrella.

Samuel Torres and Robert Quintero represent the Afro-Cuban side of the jazz big band number with cutting edge style, as they lay the conga beats out in a teasing, scintillating piece of percussive jive.

Every song in the album is a barn burner. Vazquez's sultry "No Rest For The Bones Of The Dead," somehow recalls the funk and R&B of the early 1970s police procedural soundtracks like "S.W.A.T." before heading in the direction of a syncopated Afro-Cuban dance as Hernandez solos passionately on tenor sax.

Vazquez's "Family Of Four" moves in shifts, making pronouncements on the way toward the exit. Each pronouncement floods the senses, thanks to the flugelhornist Alex Norris and tenor saxophonist Matt Stuver.

The coolest cover comes in on the sixth track, with Hernandez's "Dialed In." The musicians make everything happen on staggered beats reminiscent of the best modern post-bop, chasing the angular and the contrasting notes.

Joe McCarthy, Vince Norman, and Bob Dawson (recorder/mixer) turned in production credits on Revelation.






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