Album Of The Week: Libre, The Marty Sheller Ensemble

by chipboaz on June 20, 2017

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Sometimes we get singleminded when it comes to Latin Jazz, focusing all of our attention upon the rhythm, when there’s so much more potential in the music. There’s no doubt that rhythm is an important part of Latin Jazz, connecting the music to vital cultural traditions. It is the foundation that supports harmony, melody, form, texture, improvisation, arrangement, and so much more. Rhythm is the foundation though – it should work in combination with these other musical elements, instead of overshadowing them at every turn. The smart manipulation of all musical elements lets us view the tradition through a new lens, exposing different perspectives that ultimately broaden our understanding. When a musician uses all these elements to open our eyes, we see beauty and possibility in the music. Composer and arranger Marty Sheller grabs every opportunity to shape his music on Libre, delivering a bold and beautiful collection of artfully crafted songs.

Using Diverse Musical Elements To Create A Burning Intensity
Wrapping rich harmony and cleverly arranged band parts around a driving rhythm section, Sheller creates a burning intensity on a number of songs. The wind players attack a sneaky minor melody with a coy precision on “Counter Punch,” while the rhythm section walks a fine line between clave fueled straight eighths and swing. Alto saxophonist Bobby Porcelli and tenor saxophonist Bob Franceschini both storm through their solos with a screaming intensity until drummer Vince Cherico frames sharp rhythmic punches from the wind players with polyrhythmic intensity. Trombonist Sam Burtis eases into this solo with a restrained subtlety that scales the arrangement to a climax, falling into a cleverly melodic statement from bassist Ruben Rodriguez. Cherico explosively fills around harsh rhythmic attacks from the wind players, leading into a clever melody on “R.S.V.P.” that is both mysterious and blatantly rhythmic. Franceschini mirrors this duality in his improvisation, tempering ferocious runs of notes with reflective spaces and distinct rhythmic attacks. Trumpet player Chris Rogers starts his solo at a slow boil, exploring the harmony with long notes and spaced out riffs, before ascending into the high register of his instrument with a fierce determination. A bold introduction from the horn section leads the rhythm section into a driving groove on “Woody 1” while the wind players charge through trumpet player Woody Shaw’s classic melody, skillfully arranged around clave. Enthusiastic statements from pianist Oscar Hernandéz and Rodriguez bookend the solo section, allowing the rhythm section players to stretch their chops over the classic changes and the cleverly written supporting parts. Porcelli grabs his improvisation with a fierce attitude, building a statement that plays to the strength of Shaw’s composition and structures itself around a clever arrangement. Sheller locks harmonic and melodic content, as well as intricate writing, tightly around the rhythm, creating an addictive intensity to the music.

Developing A Wide Range Of Moods With Masterful Writing
Sheller builds moods that range from introspective to smoldering passion on other tracks, shaping the music’s direction with smart writing. The lone sounds of Rodriguez’s bass playing octaves set the stage for a captivating melody from the five horn front line on “Libre,” wrapping a long and engaging line around a combination of son montuno, swing, and an unaccompanied section. Porcelli leaps into his improvisation with grace and style, exploring the extended form of the song with a bebop fearlessness. Working into a frenzied collection of screaming high notes and quick runs, Franceschini soars over the colorful background horn lines that wisely outline the harmony while accenting the rhythmic structure. Long notes coalesce into a reflective melody on “Another Time,” as they attack precise pieces of a cha cha cha groove while coming alive against a moving harmony. Trumpet player Joe Magnarelli explores every inch of the gorgeous harmony with bop-filled arpeggios that wrap around accents from supporting horn parts with an understated intensity. The rhythm section disappears as Hernández moves into his solo with a coloristic approach to the harmony, building into a driving improvisation from Franceschini. Porcelli digs deep into the inner soul of the melody on the ballad “Noraa,” telling a story with subtle dynamic changes and liberal articulations. The melody segues seamlessly into a beautiful improvisation from the saxophonist, which finds him twisting rapid streams of notes around the harmony while constantly developing his ideas into a magical statement. The rhythm section flies into a double time feel pushed by sharp horn attacks while Porcelli improvises playfully around the new pulse, before the saxophonist closes his feature with a classy elegance. There’s some masterful writing from Sheller here, that exposes the inner potential of Latin Jazz, while bringing out inspired performances from his musicians.

Demonstrating The Full Potential Of Latin Jazz
Sheller crafts a gorgeous collection of music on Libre that is intellectually inspiring, aesthetically appealing, and viscerally exciting. The writing throughout the album is elegant and detailed, as Sheller applies years of experiences into crafting smart, refined statements. His compositions are complex and intricate, but not at the expense of beauty – each songs has a appealing personality of their own. Sheller has an uncanny ability to shape harmony around rhythmic structures in a way that inspires everyone to search for the music’s inner beauty. Hernandéz, Rodriguez, and Cherico act as the perfect rhythm section for Sheller’s work, playing assertively with a powerful rhythmic drive that forcefully defines the form while always serving the demands of the composition. The soloists enthusiastically embrace the opportunity to play over Sheller’s writing; Porcelli and Franceschini deliver some particularly powerful statements. There’s so many layers of subtlety to Sheller’s work; this is an album that demands repeated listens. Libre is full of cleverly conceived, smartly constructed, and extraordinarily executed music that demonstrates the full potential of Latin Jazz.

Track Listing:
1.Libre (Marty Sheller)
2. Counter Punch (Marty Sheller)
3. Another Time (Alan Broadbent)
4. R.S.V.P. (Marty Sheller)
5. Noraa (Marty Sheller)
6. Woody 1 (Woody Shaw)

Chris Rogers – trumpet; Joe Magnarelli – trumpet; Bobby Porcelli – alto sax; Bob Franceschini – tenor sax; Sam Burtis – trombone; Oscar Hernández – piano; Ruben Rodriguez – bass; Vince Cherico – drums; Steve Berrios – percussion

Check Out More Great LJC Content:
Album Of The Week: Mr. EP – A Tribute To Eddie Palmieri, Charlie Sepulveda & The Turnaround
Album Of The Week: The Art Of Latin Jazz, Oscar Hernández & Alma Libre
Album Of The Week: Hybrido – From Rio To Wayne Shorter, Antonio Adolfo
Album Of The Week: Backlog, Steve Khan


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