Michael Spiro/Wayne Wallace La Orquestra Sinfonietta Welcome You to "Canto America" (REVIEW)
When Ella Fitzgerald and McCoy Tyner wanted to spice up their mix with salsa percussion, they called Michael Spiro. When Count Basie and Sonny Rollins wanted some Afro-Cuban know-how, they called trombonist Wayne Wallace. Together, the two have collaborated for almost three decades. Their latest adventure, Canto America (Patois Records) uses La Orquestra Sinfonietta to deconstruct, then reconstruct, Afro-Caribbean music.
This is true fusion: strains of Euro-classical, Western and African permeate these nine Latin Jazz tracks, complete with vocals, drums, euphonium, electric, acoustic and fretless bass, piano (2), more percussion (3), flute (4), alto flute, alto sax (2), tenor sax, baritone sax, trumpet (7), EWI (electric wind instrument), trombone (5), bass trombone, mellophone, French Horn, clarinet, bass clarinet, oboe, violin (6), viola (3) and cello (3), all in different configurations depending upon the track.
Expect the kitchen sink because you get it. Timba (Cuban folkloric dance music), the slower tempo of Spain's Bolero, Haitian Petro, Cuban Rumba and Mambo, Puerto Rican Guiro, Mexican Danzon and Louisiana Creole are all juxtaposed to create a kaleidoscopic vision of eternal dancing, romancing and unadulterated joyousness. Thus, Coltrane's "Afro-Blue" is transmogrified into another animal completely. Ditto for Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust." Track after track-especially "Hispaniola," "El Medico" and "El Caldero De Ogun" illustrate their point.
Spiro and Wallace are hellbent to make that point. Knowing that commercial Latin Jazz utilizes woodwinds and brass atop a percolating rhythm section, with strings only used for sweetening (or diluting, some would say) the action, the two reach back further to when traditional musicians of the aforementioned geographical locales used strings as a front-line. (This has its antecedents in European classical music with its harmonic, melodic and orchestral elements.) Place Afro-Caribbean folkloric dance music gingerly underneath those complex Euro strains and you've got the melting pot that is, indeed, Canto America.