The Jazz Tribe
Composed of such luminaries as Latin percussionist Ray Mantilla and alto saxophonist Bobby Watson, The Jazz Tribe is the very definition of an all-star band. Unlike most such projects, however, which tend to stink of vanity and closed-mindedness, this ensemble works together to impressively stretch the musical boundaries of the individual performers. The heart and soul of the group is Watson, one of the pre-eminent altoists working today. Renowned for his bluesy, Cannonball Adderley-style solos, Watson takes a more potent, vibrant approach to his work on this album. His stunning composition “River Jordan” veers unsettlingly between soul, hard bop, and avant-garde stylings but is wondrous throughout. Trumpeter Jack Walrath has a distinctively brassy horn that provides perfect counterpoint to Watson’s smooth sound. Mantilla’s compositions tend to have an even freer, more unfettered sound than Watson’s. With music this formless an ensemble must have impeccable timing, and The Jazz Tribe succeeds on all accounts. The individual musicians have been compatriots for years, which shows in their ability to quickly change moods and incorporate new themes. The propulsive “Camino al Cielo” is the best showcase for Mantilla’s delightfully evocative percussion work, and Walrath’s “Los Apolypticanos” caps off the album with an anarchic blast. It is rewarding to hear such notaries as Mantilla and Watson in the context of such an exciting, exploratory group setting.