Decorated Latin jazz master Arturo Sandoval has said ".... [M]y philosophy has always been that I love music. I don't want to be remembered as a jazz trumpeter. I'd like to be remembered as a man who loved music. Because I like to play piano, I like to compose. I like to do all those things as much as I like to play the trumpet." What people might not know about him is that he is at least as good, if not a better, pianist. This reviewer was fortunate to have witnessed a recent live show at Seattle’s Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, where Sandoval jumped back and forth effortlessly between the trumpet and the keyboard. His piano work was energetic, with unmatched complexity and dynamism.
On his 28th release, Rumba Palace, named after Sandoval’s newest nightclub in South Miami Beach, the maestro sticks to the trumpet and his lead sheets by coloring his indisputably mature music with a relentless big-band feel, reminiscent of the extended works of iconic Latin jazz composers such as Lalo Schifrin and Chico O’Farrell.
The opening piece, "A Gozar," sets the tone of the album immediately, as Sandoval’s muted trumpet whines over the rest of the textured brass accompaniment, comprised of two layers of trumpets and four trombones. His rhythm section is spectacular, especially his electric bass player Armando Gola, who always comes up with interesting statements within the pulsating, in-the-pocket groove of the Cuban rumba.
The aptly named "21st Century" is perhaps the most experimental piece on the album, featuring strong waves of brass, Tony Perez’ Chick Corea-esque cosmic chords, and an unwavering restlessness. It seems to suggest the chaos of the modern world, where few answers are revealed, despite the fact that a whole lot of soul searching is going on.
"Peaceful," an ethereal ballad, demonstrates Sandoval’s compositional range. On this short cut he trades some beautifully muted melodic lines with tenor sax player Felipe Lamoglia, who composed the CD’s second piece, "Guarachando."
The title cut, "Rumba Palace," has a singsong head with the typical steady rhythmic underpinnings, moving like a skilled dance partner across a crowded floor.
If you’re looking for a CD with the range of Sandoval’s Trumpet Evolution which attempted to encapsulate the trumpet’s towering influence on popular music this is not it. But that’s not this album’s aim. Rumba Palace once again shows the uncompromising Sandoval setting the Latin jazz bar very high, with many other onlookers only wishing they could eclipse it.