Album Remarks & Appraisals:
"At some point in their artistic development, every Latin Jazz musician studies the genre's forefathers, including Dizzy Gillespie, Machito (Francisco Raúl Gutiérrez Grillo) and Tito Puente. After the study ends, the musician must decide to approach tradition as a museum curator or an active experimenter. The museum curator creates replications of "classic material, closely imitating the original works. This requires extensive technical skill, but it limits creativity to the given model. The active experimenter fuses past musical concepts with new ideas, creating an original product rooted in history. Percussionist and drummer Bobby Sanabria clearly takes on the role of active experimenter on Big Band Urban Folktales.
Sanabria's band applies an astounding array of rhythm section feels and arranging techniques in daring directions. "El Lider moves jazz harmonies through a Puerto Rican bomba and then into a funkier version with a disco rhythm on the drum kit. The rhythm section travels through a bolero, samba, and jazz waltz on "O Som Do Sol, pulled together by the piece's melodic invention. The regular use of clapping, shouting, and band vocals brings out a Mingus feel to many of the songs. Sanabria even introduces progressive rock into the Latin jazz world with a version of Frank Zappa's "The Grand Wazoo. This unexpected song thrives as it explores a bembe rhythm, rumba Guaguanco, blues shuffle, and even some free improvisation. The music delves into a variety of styles, reflecting the band's impressive artistic depth.
Innovative arrangements are the starting points for these musicians, as they consistently deliver inspired performances. Dueling trumpets battle through a comparsa rhythm on "El Aché De Sanabria En Moderación eventually evolving into a bembe rhythm for Peter Brainin's searing soprano sax solo. Vocalist Chareneé Wade boldly creates one of the highlights with her version of "Since I Fell For You. She sings through a bolero with the emotional strength of a classic jazz vocalist, and then when the band breaks out a cha-cha-chá vamp, Wade scats with a soul that would make Ella Fitzgerald proud. Sanabria displays a diverse musicianship on "Blues for Booty Shakers with an inventive vibes solo over a standard blues swing. The band performs with variance and professionalism that constantly conveys excitement and surprise.
Big Band Urban Folktales reflects Sanabria's understanding of upholding tradition through risk and experimentation. That was the soul of the forefathers - Gillespie, Puente, and Machito - who attempted to bring different musical heritages together into something unique. That set them apart from their contemporaries, and in turn, that bravado creates an individual voice for Sanabria's Big Band. This recording has more in common with the legends than many of the stale tributes that have come before. It sets the bar higher through Sanabria's integrity, knowledge, and experimentation - and it adds one more important listen for musicians considering their artistic identity." -AllAboutJazz
"Bobby Sanabria's concept of jazz is freedom. There is no arguing that point of view given the evidence he presents on this recording.
Sanabria finds this freedom in many avenues. It comes from his students and it filters through the musicians with whom he has forged relationships over the years. It springs from the bands he has led, culminating in his present big band. It resides in his music that assimilates several forms, brings them together, and opens the door to fusion "in the best sense of the word. That word is jazz.
Sanabria's vision and universality are reflected in his choice of composers. They include Hermeto Pascoal, Frank Zappa, Buddy Johnson, Consuelo Velazquez and Chris Washburne, besides himself. All of this music brings in a heady whirl of sound and rhythm that hones in on Puerto Rican, Afro-Cuban, blues, bolero, bossa nova and anything else that can neatly nestle within.
While all of the music charms, the two vocal tracks have a lure of their own. "Besame Mucho still retains its classic richness, sung as it is by Hiram "El Pavo Ramón. His voice has a deep resonance, his interpretive power filled with nuance and hope. Arranger Jeremy Fletcher redesigns the arrangement to give it a modern grace with saxophonist Peter Brainin opening the groove with a ripe, driving tone and Dave Miller blasting the whole movement open on the trombone against a vocal chorus - old and new sit tidily together.
The other, "Since I Fell For You is sung by Chareneé Wade. Her enunciation and pitch are enviable as she captures the blues and blows them across the lyrics. And when that final scat comes, she has filled the soul of the song with the passion of her spirit.
"Pink is fun. The horns turn on the funk, the beat dances the cha-cha and the mood is effervescent. Chris Washburne turns on the energy with his bass trombone, opening the path for Jeff Lederer to get the jazz harmony flowing on the tenor saxophone. The Latin beat takes flight and in the heady impulses comes the call to take to the dance floor.
Another roller-coaster ride comes on the wings of "The Great Wazoo. The movement is fuelled by the imagination of Sanabria who arranged the vocals and percussion. It is a heady and stirring stream as the band yells, exhorts and goes on full throttle. The arranging by trombonist Joe Fiedler is rich in timbre and hue, opening harmonic space and building a powerful structure.
Sanabria has created a landscape that is at once vivid and heady." -AllAboutJazz
Personnel: Bobby Sanabria (vocals, kazoo, vibraphone, marimba, drums, hand claps, percussion, background vocals); Yeissonn Villamar (vocals, kazoo, piano); Alex Hernandez (vocals, kazoo, acoustic bass); Christian A. Rivera (vocals, kazoo, congas); Giancarlo Anderson (vocals, kazoo, bongos, hand claps, background vocals); Charenée Wade, Hiram "El Pavo" Remón (vocals); Nahyra Pérez (soprano, hand claps, background vocals); Obanilú Allende (cello); Ricardo S. Pons (flute, kazoo, baritone saxophone, hand claps, background vocals); David DeJesus (kazoo, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone); Peter Brainin (kazoo, soprano saxophone); Kevin Bryan , Andrew Neesley, Shareef Clayton, Justin Davis, Michael Philip Mossman (kazoo, trumpet); Joe Fiedler, Tim Sessions (kazoo, trombone); Chris Washburne (kazoo, bass trombone); David Bixler (alto saxophone); Gene Marlow, Eddie Sanabria (hand claps, background vocals).
Audio Mixers: Jimmie Gately; Bobby Sanabria.
Liner Note Author: Robert Farris Thompson.
Recording information: Avatar Studios (Studio A), New York, NY (01/07/2007/01/08/2007).
Photographers: Eddie Sanabria; Jeff Sacks.
Arrangers: Chris Washburne; Jeremy Fletcher; Gene Marlow; Joe Fiedler; Ray Santos; Michael Philip Mossman; Hermeto Pascoal; Bobby Sanabria.
A member of the lineage of Tito Puente and New York City big band Latin jazz, Bobby Sanabria is a Puerto Rican percussionist from the Bronx who is keeping the torch burning into the 21st century. BIG BAND URBAN FOLK TALES (2007) is a familiar, fiery ride through chunky horn arrangements and burbling polyrhythms that incorporate mambo, bomba, and guajira, among other Latin styles. The album features original compositions from the band members, as well as covers as diverse as "Besame Mucho" and Frank Zappa's "The Grand Wazoo" (one of the set's highlights). BIG BAND URBAN FOLK TALES was nominated for a 2008 Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album.