Monday, October 13, 2014

The Puppeteers: The Puppeteers

Puppets Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: The Puppeteers

This quartet comprises pianist Arturo O'Farrill, vibraphonist Bill Ware, bassist Alex Blake and drummer Jaime Affoumado. The unit is relatively new, this being its debut release, but the individual members have established their own careers. 
Arturo O'Farrill is the son of Chico O'Farrill, the trumpeter, composer and arranger who was key to the development of Afro-Cuban jazz from the 1950s through the ’90s. Arturo played in his father’s bands and, eventually, took over as leader after Chico retired.
The New Jersey-born Ware also grew up in the Latin jazz world but, over time, moved into the straight-ahead and bop genres. Blake was born in Panama, moved to the States at age 7, and developed his skills in the fusion, post-bop and straight-ahead genres. At 62, he’s the oldest member of this group. 
Affoumado initially became known as a skateboard expert, and was talented enough to earn the nick-name “Puppeteer.” He also played drums; eventually, jazz became his primary activity. He, O'Farrill, Blake and Ware played extensively at a Brooklyn-based jazz club that became known as Puppet’s Jazz.
This album is excellent. The style has been identified by some as “fresh jazz,” although you’ll also detect hard bop, funk, Latin and straight-ahead genres. Actually, the term fresh best refers to the performances and quality of the music, along with the musicians’ composing and arranging skills. All but one of these tracks is original: Blake contributed “On the Spot,” “Jumping”Peaceful Moment”; Ware is responsible for “Bio Diesel,” “Lonely Days Are Gone” and “The Right Time”; O'Farrill wrote “In Whom”; and “Dreams of Dad” came from Affoumado. “Not Now Right Now” is by guest composer Popo Vasquez.
Everything swings brightly and smoothly, with particular accolades going to Blake and his bass work. He holds it all together, and his solos are uniquely moving; he often hums the melodic lines as he plays them, and the effect is a real groove.

This one’s a don’t-miss, and I eagerly await the next opportunity to be “strung along” by these Puppeteers.

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