Latin Fiesta (Archived)

Welcome to our Latin Fiesta page where we highlight the extraordinary efforts of artists who present us with the full exoticism of some of the most alluring Latin jazz music sounds, so rich and vibrant and full of that sunny culture. We try to toss the spotlight mostly on flamenco music and music with a touch of that World influence, but you may find other very appealing styles of Latin music here. We hope you enjoy all of the entries!

July 29, 2017

David Benoit & Marc Antoine – So Nice!

If the thought of a warm night on a Rio beach enjoying the moon’s smile is therapeutic and alluring to you, the music presented here on So Nice! the first collaborative recording by guitarist Marc Antoine and pianist David Benoit – two of the most prominent figures in the world of contemporary jazz – is just what the médico ordered. Full of sophistication, class, exoticism, and cool charm, this is the way to spend a bossa nova-filled evening.

These two artists may be releasing their first joint album, but they appear joined at the hip in terms of how they envision this mold of South American musical magic, body, and beauty.

No shake-‘em-down boogies here; just elegance and seductive melodies poured out over 10 tracks of Brazilian delight. The cadences and moods are compelling and certainly enjoyable, even preferable on certain nights in certain scenarios, and the colors are vibrant here. For example, the smooth, silky tracks “French Café,” “Penthouse in Copacabana,” “Só Danҁo Samba,” and “Caminando” are all representative of those refreshing, varying cadences and moods, each with its own persona.

A delightful journey and a nod to Brazilian culture that would make the likes of Antonio Carlos Jobim most proud, Antoine and Benoit take this trip seriously yet joyously. It may have taken a while for these two to get together and produce something, but that something is a piece of work at which to marvel for its originality and commitment to the mystique of Brazil, the bossa nova, and that moonlit night so far away from the U.S. shore. Let them take you gently there and help you enjoy the slight detour from the typical smooth jazz norm. – Ronald Jackson


July 23, 2017

Jim Stubblefield – Guitare Mystique

Guitarist Jim Stubblefield’s latest release, Guitare Mystique, is a tailor-made tapestry of musical art, full of exciting, exotic, and diverse offerings just right for the real lover of musical excellence.

As he states, “I enjoy fantasy entertainment in artwork, music, books, or movies, whether it is swords-and-sorcery, or pulp-era Conan the Barbarian tales, or books and films like Lord of the Rings. So, why not incorporate a little of that magic and mystical drama into my music and images? On the new album, sometimes the guitar sounds are straightforward, but other times, I have fun with them by processing, delaying, and changing them into something new and different…a little musical alchemy.” Yes, it’s all that and a little more. The mystique of the music and the delivery of it all are enticing and elaborate yet clear in their seductive simplicity. World music meets Latin meets Jazz meets the entire musical universe. It’s far away yet right next door to your heart and soul.

As with Stubblefield’s previous releases, I fell instantly in love with this album’s charisma, magnetic melodies, and majestic charm. This is truly music that words can only describe on the surface. The soul must hear and embrace this in order to feel its impact. The ears may be the initial vehicle to take you there, but what the soul captures is what you will remember.

Every single track has a voice that sings out to you with its own message. The lead track, “Saint-Tropez,” sets out to capture the allure and mood of that beautiful French Riviera city while the profound message of “Caravan of Souls” (“In life and death, there is always a long line of people going somewhere.”) is riveting.

So much of this album is rooted in some kind of motivation, and it clearly shows. To sum it up, the guitarist says, “On Guitare Mystique, I wanted to make an album that was different than anything I had ever done before, and I wanted variety including some downtempo stuff, some atmospheric, some textured, and a few powerful upbeat pieces.” It’s all here and with an abundance of beauty to boot. – Ronald Jackson


July 14, 2017

The Richard Sorce Project – Samba Para a Vida

Granted, this is an album not routinely seen on our site, but it is another of those we feel has enough value, substance, and universal appeal to compel us to share it. Pianist/composer Richard Sorce has created, Samba Para a Vida, a well-done nod to the gentle, exotic music and culture of Latin America — in this case, Brazil. While not a smooth jazz work, its international draw should become apparent right from the start.

Combining some easy listening and traditional jazz influences with the powerful attraction of Samba and Bossa Nova, Sorce delivers a serene, blissful collection of midnight-on-the-beach music, a lot of it featuring Brazilian vocalist Iara Negrete who captures and captivates by singing in Portuguese. You don’t necessarily need to understand the lyrics to know that this is quality stuff, especially for those who love it light and airy with just enough flair on some tracks to set the Samba in your soul in motion.

You get a good feel for Sorce’s finesse and command of the piano as he sways through some tasteful tracks like the title track, “Forever Again,” Once More,” “Another Day in Paradise,” and others that pamper and soothe if you dare to imagine yourself relaxing in Rio.

In addition to tantalizing vocals on the lead track “Escrito No Vento,” Negrete seduces with her charm on “Danca Do Sol,” “Me Deixe Perto,” “Vozes,” and more.

Though perhaps not an album for everyone here, those who can relate to the more mellow, easy side of Latin jazz will truly appreciate it. – Ronald Jackson


May 1, 2017

3D Rhythm of Life — Fantasy

For some artists and groups, the one descriptive word for their music can only be “Wow!” Such is the case with 3D Rhythm of Life. Founded by drummer/percussionist Michael Tate some 7+ years ago, the core group of Tate, guitarist Chris Amelar, and keyboardist/bassist Lenny Underwood — and a massive collection of contributing musicians — is deeply rooted in the rhythmic allure of Latin, Pop, and Reggae music. Their first full album, after years of recording seasonal and other singles and mixes, is Fantasy – an album loaded with a full-bodied collection of vocals-led colorful melodies and dance grooves. Extremely contagious and enticing, these guys have nailed the formula for this kind of groove.

Paying tribute to the iconic supergroup Earth, Wind & Fire, the group named this CD for one of EWF’s premier hits and leads off with that track with tons of rhythm and soul, certainly doing EWF no injustice whatsoever. They follow that with “Quiero Saber” which bears a slight resemblance to the title track for a moment, then veers off to identify itself as a Latin beauty that sways and sashays along with sexiness. That is followed by a nod to the equally attractive reggae sound on “Things Will Change.”

Being a real lover of Latin music, this album was right down my alley with its diverse, eclectic feel and totally riveting personality. Its all-embracing character is very difficult to ignore – as if you would even want to ignore it.

When asked about its name, especially the origin of “3D,” the group collectively writes that it stands for Diverse, Danceable, and Dynamic. Yes, that would make sense after even one listen. Travelling along Music Ave. looking for that perfect island party album with class, exoticism, and eclecticism? With this album, you have just arrived at your destination. – Ronald Jackson


Apr. 7. 2017

Roman Street — Bohemia

When I first heard Roman Street on the radio, I could have sworn I was listening to one fine guitarist who’d perhaps either done some phenomenal overdubbing work to create such a symphony of two exotically played guitars or one who’d recruited well for help with the second guitar. Boy, was I ever wrong once I decided to go beyond remarking: “Just who is this Roman Street? He’s great!” to really setting out to find out. It turns out that the man I thought might hail from Europe or one of the Central or South American countries was actually a pair of homegrown American brothers from Mobile, Alabama! Say what? How totally cool is this? The “mysterious” Josh and Noah Thompson are actually no mystery at all, at least to many of the jazzers who’ve attended such events as Art Good’s annual Catalina Island Jazztrax Festival (they debuted there in 2013). Good said of their appearance there, “we were blown away. They outsold all other bands CDs at the JazzTrax store.” Quite an endorsement from one whose events are always top-tier.

The brothers’ new release, Bohemia, is another exotic and pure blend of Nuevo Flamenco, Gypsy, and Contemporary Jazz guaranteed to tease and excite followers of this type of music which they have mastered so well and play almost effortlessly.

So many colors and textures are explored here in this cornucopia of musical gems. Listen as they dance between the notes of the rousing lead track “Cinco” to the exotic and seductive “Adria” to the mid-tempo, sexy tango-like, violin-laced title track to the rhythmic and melodic charm of the lively “Island Time” to the snappy, jazzed-up “Mr. Morris” to the lazily romantic “Morningside” with its smooth jazz strolling-along-the-sun-kissed-beach groove to the razzmatazz swing of “Minor Swing” and on through the hot and lively flamenco finale “Strum.”

Never a dull moment here. Bring all of your positive vibes and moods to this party. This rich music will make good use of them. – Ronald Jackson


Mar. 6, 2017

Terra Guitarra – Of Sea & Stars

As exquisite, exotic, and magical as all of their reflective concept albums have been since I’ve been following them as not just a music critic but, admittedly, a big fan of their Nuevo Flamenco-influenced style, this talented and observant duo offers yet another gem called Of Sea & Stars. If you are ever able to tear yourself away from the beauty of their projects to focus on the intent of the albums – if only for a brief moment – you can get a clear sense of how deep their perception and concepts go – far beyond just creating great music. It’s always a true experience as they reach deep inside themselves, and invite you to do the same, to journey to new, unexplored spaces in and of the earth and all of its breathtaking awesomeness and outer space, as well as escorting one into their world of spiritual growth and awareness.

As lead guitarist and composer Bruce Hecksel puts it, “The music on Of Seas & Stars is meant to direct the listener to both contemplation and bliss.” That truly sums up the entire project –concept and music – in a nutshell. He also says – and mull this over for a moment- “There is a connectedness between the sea and the stars…For the most part, we have not yet reached the point where we are readily astute enough to accept knowledge that could be valuable to us, whether that means communicating with whales or deciphering messages from other places in the universe.” Oh, he has more, as he is extremely reflective and observant (a wonderful interview, I’ll bet).

In a bit of a summary, the duo believes that this album (with its newly introduced native wood flutes and other riveting sounds) “makes a correlation between the exploration of Earth’s oceans and outer space because both represent places that have to be journeyed across to settle new lands and gain additional insights into human consciousness, spiritual awakening, and scientific knowledge.” Deep? You bet! Even the awe-inspiring cover art of the CD gets more than a nod from your truly.

O.k., let’s talk about the deeply penetrating vibes of the music itself, shall we? From the lead track “Wave Walker,” a Terra Guitarra signature piece that typifies (as much as one can typify this great material) the essence of their satisfying sound, throughout the journey that is this album all the way to track 13’s “Aurora,” there are simply no bad tracks. Each tune breathes on its own and tells a magnificent story, often inspiring, panoramic, melodic, and full. The very seductive nature of this style of music only further enhances its appeal and message.

Rather than singling out tracks, you simply have to hear this as one complete symphony of sorts, one experience that cannot be dissected without losing something. Enjoy this as the complete entity it is. You’ll be so grateful that you did! – Ronald Jackson


July 17, 2016

Ciro Hurtado — Selva

Two years ago, I had the pleasure of discovering the music of Peruvian guitarist Ciro Hurtado, an artist most capable of weaving dreams through his Latin influence and exotically colorful compositions. Here again is the guitarist with his latest, Selva, which holds up well Ciro Hurtado Selva CDagainst his previous album Ayahuasca Dreams.

Selva is a wonderfully eclectic blend of various Latin American neighbors of Peru, as well as some Cuban influences. It is, as he states, “a collection of compositions based on Latin America Folk music and instrumentation with world influences.”

There is, in fact a nod to a lot of World grooves interwoven into the Latin fabric as tracks like “Asi Eres Tu En Mi Corazon” and Corre, Salta Y Vuela” will demonstrate. The masterful and strategic use of such exotic as the charango, cajόn, zapoñas, quena, and quijada. No, don’t ask me about any of them as I too am pleasantly getting acquainted with them, and through this recording, I may just become conversant on them. Who knows?

The effect of the flute is prominently heard here though not mentioned; so, I suspect that one of the aforementioned instruments mimics it. Whatever the case, this is most riveting and caressingly beautiful and romantic music – the kind of music that makes romance the salient art form for the soul that it is.

There are simply too many wonderful tunes here to pick faves, but I will say that “Un Pacto De Amor” ranks high on my list. It, like so many of these compositions, is loaded with beautiful melody, charm, and a bit of subtle seduction.

Always a favorite genre of mine, this type of Latin music — along with Nuevo Flamenco – always hits me where I live and can transport me to any buoyant, flowery, rainbow-laced oasis I choose. Bravo to Hurtado once again for knowing which buttons to push on Latin music lovers everywhere. – Ronald Jackson