Afro Bop Alliance

Revelation

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MUSIC REVIEW BY Jack Bowers, All About Jazz

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Revelation is the sixth recording by drummer Joe McCarthy's sixteen-year-old Afro Bop Alliance (the last three by the big band after three by smaller incarnations), the first that has come this way for review. As McCarthy's stalwart ensemble is based in the Washington, D.C. area, the supposition is that a number of topnotch armed services musicians may be onboard, an inference that proves correct with names such as Luis Hernandez, Vince Norman, Jim Roberts, Brian MacDonald, Matt Niess, Rich Sigler, Joe Jackson, Pete BarenBregge and Joseph Henson - not to mention McCarthy himself - enhancing the lineup. There may be others; those are merely the ones who surface at first glance.

Norman and McCarthy, co-leaders of their own straight-ahead large ensemble, co-wrote the fast-moving opener, "CuBop" (a salute to the band's original name), Hernandez the loping "Dialed In." There are two compositions by steel pan virtuoso Victor Provost, three by drummer / composer Roland Vazquez who conducts his themes, "No Rest for the Bones of the Dead," "Family of Four" and "Creencias." Provost chaperons a sharp and energetic rhythm section that includes (on various numbers) McCarthy, Roberts, pianist Harry Appelman, vibraphonist Ed Fast, percussionist Roberto Quintero , bassists Tom Baldwin or Oscar Stagnaro, conguero Samuel Torres, and Josanne Francis, Khandeya Sheppard and Adam Grise on the steel pans. Provost's piquant "Magharibi" and Caribbean-flavored "Soulfriere" complete the appetizing menu.

Needless to say, robust and persuasive rhythms are the driving force behind this Revelation, accentuated by brass and reeds with the whole resting on a shapely melodic framework. Yes, there are solos, most notably by Hernandez, Norman, McCarthy, Appelman, trumpeter Tim Stanley, flugel Alex Norris (featured on "Family of Four"), tenor Matt Stuver and trombonist Victor Baranco, but they are more or less eclipsed by the ensemble's rhythmic and harmonic primacy. That's not to say the solos are unrewarding; each one is astute and colorful, and each one comprises an essential part of the over-all tapestry. When sewn together, the various components merge impressively to produce a rich and handsome portrait of African-influenced Latin jazz with North American trimmings.






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