Between the Grooves with Philip Booth

Exploring Jazz, Rock, Americana, World Music and more

Ronnie Cuber, “Live at Jazzfest Berlin” (CD review)

leave a comment »

(originally published in JazzTimes)

ronnie cuber

Ronnie Cuber, “Live at Jazzfest Berlin” (SteepleChase)

Baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber’s third release for SteepleChase predates his association with the label, and might be thought of as a happy accident. At the titular fest, in 2008, Cuber’s quartet—with pianist Kenny Drew Jr., electric bassist Ruben Rodriguez and drummer Ben Perowsky—played a two-set show that the four remembered as a highlight of their European tour. Unbeknownst to them, the concert was recorded for a radio broadcast, and Cuber subsequently opted to give the music an official release. He had good instincts: The seven tunes culled from the evening have Cuber and co. in fine form, with the saxophonist, underappreciated pianist Drew and the in-sync rhythm section excelling on blues, swing and Latin-oriented tunes, including four originals.

The band romps from the get-go with Horace Silver’s “Tokyo Blues,” its call-and-response head opening up into an extended solo for Cuber, who incorporates artful repetition, syncopation, overblowing effects and a Gershwin reference before turning it over to Drew. He proceeds to build a dizzying, masterful solo, and Rodriguez and Perowsky also shine on the 12 1/2-minute tune. The samba rhythms of Clare Fischer’s bright, catchy “Coco B” fuel sterling improvisations by Drew and Cuber. So, too, do the fertile Afro-Caribbean grooves of Cuber’s “Passion Fruit,” the title track from the saxophonist’s 1985 album, which opens up for a high-energy montuno section, and his “Arroz con Pollo,” bolstered by Rodriguez’s fleet-fingered workout.

The quartet also takes on Herbie Hancock’s melancholy, slowly shifting “Tell Me a Bedtime Story” and two originals from Drew: the funk-edged “Things Never Were What They Used to Be,” a nod to the Mercer Ellington tune, and “Perpetuating the Myth,” a strolling, twisting, bluesy piece with a bari-and-piano unison melody that nods to Monk. Fat, gritty tone? Check. Agile, clever improvisations? Check. Cuber still has it.

About these ads

Written by philipb1961

August 11, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 40 other followers

%d bloggers like this: