Caribbean Jazz Project, fronted by vibraphonist/marimba player, David Samuels, is a Latin-jazz combo made of equal percussion parts that when brought in with horns and keyboards, they create cannon worthy compositions with memorable harmonic exchanges and solos, that when traded, shift the dynamics and melodic patterns to give each track on their albums a unique character. CJP’s latest album, Afro Bop Alliance joins their musicians, which for this album consists of Max Murray (bass), Roberto Quintero (percussions) and Joe McCarthy (drums), with Maryland-based Afro Bop Alliance, which comprises of a slew of horn players and pianist Harry Appelman. The result is a big band that plays Latin jazz, standards, and eclectic world music that experiments with odd time signatures. All of the songs are arranged by Samuels with the exception of "Soul Sauce" which is arranged by Alain Mallet. The album was recorded at Bias Studios in Springfield, Virginia with trombonist Dan Drew overseeing the big band orchestrations.
The album opens with "Rendezvous," a Latin-bop flavored track written by Samuels. The chord transitions are bright, the oscillating yo-yo movements of the percussions have a rumba syncopation, and the harmonizing in the horn section brings out a full-body arrangement that surrounds the listener from every angle. The group’s remake of John Coltrane’s classic tune "Naime" has warm vibrating horns, silky vibraphone keys, and heated percussions that create an excellent salute to the iconic figure. The scaling patterns of the piano keys in "Five For Elvin" curl elegantly beside the folding horns as the Latin-tinged percussions join in, and together they create exciting jazz mosaics in startling hues. The group’s remake of a Dizzy Gillespie favorite "Soul Sauce," has melodic phrases expanding and contracting with a limber alacrity as sonic vibrations present a sensual trickle over Samuels’s marimba which provides a classic chassis for the spinning wheels of the horns that work up into a delirious frenzy.
"Picture Frame," which is written by Samuels, is a lounging tune which shows a soft handling of the instrument keys. The album returns to a Latin pitch with "Stolen Moments" written by Oliver E. Nelson, as the axis holding up the horns enable them to swirl vibrantly displaying the sensibilities of an acrobat. The free falling flow of the horns on "Birds Of A Feather" is sequenced with opulent vibraphone keys cobbling a swing jazz momentum. "Afro Green" experiments with odd time signatures that cause the harmonies to slant at obtuse angles making the tempo shift in the blink of an eye. The group’s rendition of Thelonious Monk’s revered track "Bemsha Swing" produces lively crescendos and episodes of expressive solos that trade off with one another so the spotlight shines on a handful of horn players as well as Samuels.
The union of the Caribbean Jazz Project with the Afro Bop Alliance produces a one of a kind collaboration where Latin-jazz and bop crosses paths. The result is a unique hybrid of Latin-bop that has the potential of inspiring other musicians to use this template for their own compositions. The tracks are evenly balanced between the sections of rhythmic action and harmonies so the album makes for a comfortable listen. After 15 years of assembling Caribbean Jazz Project‘s music, Samuels shows that CJP is still an evolving entity that embraces Latin-jazz in a new light. The combo’s collaboration with Afro Bop Alliance has created a new jazz mosaics that respects Latin-jazz and bop equally.