Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Diego Urcola's new record, Viva, features the Grammy nominated trumpeter leading an all-star lineup. "I wanted to put together my dream band," said Urcola. The core group of Edward Simon, Avishai Cohen, Antonio Sanchez, and Pernel Saturnino are joined by guests, Paquito d'Rivera, Jimmy Heath, Dave Samuels and Conrad Herwig. "I wouldn't be here if it weren't for Paquito," Urcola says. "He gave me my first big break, and I got to meet a lot of people through him, including Dave, with whom I've been working in the Caribbean Jazz Project for the last three years." Heath was Urcola's advisor for his master's degree at CUNY/City College-Queens College and later an employer in his big band and quintet, while Herwig is a friend via the United Nations Orchestra. Viva features four Urcola originals; two from fellow Argentine composer/big bandleader Guillermo Klein; a pair from another Argentine composer and one of Urcola's best friends, Juan Raffo; a piece by Heath, and the Astor Piazzola classic, "Adios Nonino," a sublime melody the bandoneon master wrote for his father. "I love this tune," says Urcola. "I wrote this arrangement a few years ago for a concert I did with Paquito." On Viva, a sensibility of experimentation is vibrantly apparent throughout. So too is Urcola's aim to integrate his homeland's voice into the jazz idiom. "I like to bring the tango flavor from my country into the mix," he says, then adds, "But foremost I'm a jazz musician."
"American jazz fans sometimes neglect talented instrumentalists from other countries, and with Viva, trumpeter Diego Urcola reminds us that there are other Argentine horn players besides Gato Barbieri.
Born in Buenos Aires, Diego Urcola began studying music at age nine, eventually earning degrees from Argentina's Conservatorio Nacional de M?sica, Berklee College of Music, and the City University of New York. His big break came when legendary Latin jazz maestro Paquito D'Rivera needed a replacement for trumpeter Claudio Roditi. A faculty member at Berklee recommended Urcola, who has now been with D'Rivera for fifteen years. Urcola has also performed with numerous other luminaries.
Recorded in November 2005, Viva is Urcola's third album as a leader, and he refers to the lineup on this session as his "dream band." His sidemen are well-established players and bandleaders in their own right, particularly pianist Edward Simon and bassist Avishai Cohen. Several big names appear as guests, notably Jimmy Heath, Urcola's academic advisor while he was working on his Master's Degree at CUNY. D'Rivera plays alto sax and clarinet on three tracks. Urcola makes no bones about his indebtedness to this mentor, asserting "I wouldn't be here if it weren't for Paquito."
Another longtime friend on this session is Conrad Herwig, a former band mate in the United Nations Orchestra. Calling him a "trombone god," Urcola recounts that while in Argentina with D'Rivera, Herwig met a woman whom he subsequently married. Now fluent in Spanish, Herwig has become "half Argentinian," declares Urcola.
Vibraphonist Dave Samuels, who has worked with Urcola in the Caribbean Jazz Project, appears on two tracks. Samuels points out that while they "all knew each other and some ... had already played together, this particular combination was new, different and fresh." The result is a relaxed atmosphere that nonetheless has a comfortably charged energy - familiar without being rote, experimental yet assured.
Like Barbieri, Urcola integrates the loping, slightly asymmetrical rhythms of the tango into the jazz idiom. All but one of the album's ten cuts (including three by Urcola) were written by Argentine composers: Guillermo Klein, Juan Raffo and Astor Piazzolla. A Latinized version of Heath's "Sound for Sore Ears" partakes in this overall spirit. "I like to bring ... my country into the mix," says Urcola, patriotic while never parochial, "but foremost I'm a jazz musician."
The album opens with Urcola's "Tango Azul." An opening bass vamp with a pleasant 7/4 hiccup leads into a modal vehicle that evokes Kind of Blue. Appropriately, the tune's highlight is a solo by Herwig, known for exploring Miles' Latin side. Another subtle rhythmic experiment is Raffo's "Gringo Dance," a tricky 3/4 piece "with all kinds of different bars added in," according to Urcola. "Blues for Jimmy" features Heath's urbane tenor, and D'Rivera provides two delightful reacquaintances with the clarinet on "40/40" and "Emilia."" -AllAboutJazz
Down Beat (p.82) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "Urcola's obviously learned a few things listening to Davis, his style indicates a patience with the material, and he's a friend of nuance."
Personnel: Diego Urcola (trumpet, flugelhorn); Diego Urcola; Paquito D'Rivera (clarinet, saxophone, alto saxophone); Jimmy Heath (saxophone, tenor saxophone); Dave Samuels (vibraphone, marimba); Avishai Cohen (upright bass); Conrad Herwig (trombone); Edward Simon (piano); Antonio Sanchez (drums); Pernell Saturnino (percussion).
Recording information: Bennett Studios, NJ (11/18/2005-11/20/2005).
Authors: Diego Urcola; Conrad Herwig; Paquito D'Rivera; Jimmy Heath; Avishai Cohen ; Edward Simon ; Pernell Saturnino; Antonio Sanchez ; Juan "Pollo" Raffo; Guillermo Klein; Dave Samuels.
Photographer: Christopher Drukker.
Trumpeter Diego Urcola put together something truly special for 2006's VIVA. A standard session featuring Urcola's bright, bold horn sound and formidable chops would be reason enough to celebrate, but the all-star team of sidemen the artist rounded up is an added bonus. Saxophonist/clarinetist Paquito D'Rivera, sax man Jimmy Heath, bassist Avishai Cohen, and vibes/marimba player Dave Samuels are among the luminaries on board here, and the group holds forth on the Latin-inflected numbers and the straight-ahead swing. Packed with superior playing and lively, percolating energy, VIVA is one of the best Latin jazz bets of 2006.