Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Albert Brooks
A JazzApril story
“It’s always a good sign when a jazz band tunes up,” vibes master Stefon Harris playfully told us as Ricardo Rodriguez tried to get his bass to behave. It’s also a good sign because the musicians involved have bought into the concept they’re about to hit you with. And while tenorman David Sanchez was the catalyst that created both 90 Miles and the documentary that chronicled the band’s first iteration’s visit to Cuba, all three “co-leaders” that currently front this immensely powerful septet have complete and total buy-in.
Harold Lopez-Nussa’s torrid opener “E’cha” is Afro-Cuban goodness that comes right down the middle, and the band tore into it like a lion tucks into his evening gazelle. Harris’ vibes faced the full house at Massry, but he played marimba on the opening chorus before pianist Edward Simon dropped the first solo of the night. Simon – a band leader in his own right, whose new Sunnyside disc Live at the Jazz Standard will be required listening – wasn’t on his game when he and Harris helped SFJAZZ Collective salute Stevie Wonder at The Egg last year. On this night, though, Simon’s rising and falling solo was marvelously elaborate while maintaining the percussive element this music needs.