Bill O’Connell and the Afro Caribbean Ensemble receive a stirring review from BVS

BVS REVIEW

O’Connell’s Hudson Winds

by Bruce Von Stiers

Bill O’Connell is a pianist and composer. His musical career has stretched over forty years. He has performed with Sonny Rollins, Chet Baker and Astrud Gilberto among other greats. Over time, O’Connell become entrenched in the Latin music culture and later became a musical director and keyboardist for Dave Valentin.

During the course of his career. O’Connell has incorporated several styles of jazz into his musical repertoire. These styles include Latin and Afro-Caribbean. This has cumulated into O’Connell putting together a group called The Afro Caribbean Ensemble.

This year finds O’Connell with a new album out. This one features the above mentioned group. The album is titled Wind Off The Hudson. The artist listing for the album is Bill O’Connell and The Afro Caribbean Ensemble. The album is being released on the Savant Records label. It has ten songs and a play time of just over an hour.

O’Connell produced the album. Of the songs on the album, six were original compositions. The rest had arrangements done by O’Connell.

Along with O’Connell on piano, the members of his ensemble have varied careers and credentials. Andrea Brachfeld plays flute and alto flute. Her extensive credits include opening for Chick Corea, recording with Dave Valentin and tours with her own group that features Bill O’Donnell. Craig Hardy plays alto and soprano sax. He has played with Art Blakely, Wynton Marsalis and Dee Dee Bridgewater along with being a member of the Mingus Big Band. Ralph Bowen is on tenor sax. Along with recording eleven solo albums, Bowen has performed with Freddie Hubbard and the Bob Mintzer Big Band and recorded with many other jazz artists. Gary Smulyan is on baritone sax. In addition to winning the Baritone Saxophonist of the year from Downbeat magazine several times, Smulyan has recorded his own material and guested on several other artist’s albums. Alex Sipiagin plays trumpet and flugelhorn on track 4. He has recorded with Dave Holland and David Sanborn among others. Conrad Herwig is on trombone. He has recorded with greats such as Paquito D’Rivera and Joe Henderson. Lincoln Goines is on electric bass. He has performed with Carly Simon and Sonny Rollins and recorded with Dave Valentin and Bob Mintzer. Robby Ameen is on drums. He has recorded with Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Valentin and Paul Simon. Roman Diaz is on congas for track 6. He is a world renowned percussionist.

The title track, Wind Off The Hudson, was up first. It is a fast paced piece with great piano and some really cool other sounds like sax, trumpet and drums.

Gospel 6 slows things down a bit. It brings to mind a slow. Leisurely walk down the street after a great night of drink and music. It has a super cool sax solo.

Jerry’s Blues brings the pace back up. It is almost like a frantic race to get somewhere. This one has a cool trumpet solo.

I Don’t Have The Answer is gentle and easy, like a lover’s embrace.

Oye Como Va is one of my favorite Santana songs. The group does a fantastic job with their light jazz rendition of the song. I especially liked the flute up front throughout the song.

Many people, including Dave Brubeck and Art Tatum have recorded the Juan Tizol song, Perdido. O’Connell and the ensemble do a really decent rendition of the song.

Got Cha is an O’Connell original that does a nice job of spotlighting his piano playing. It starts out as a piano solo then transitions into a subtle groove that features horn and flute music.

Speaking of transitions, the group works through a nice rendition of the Coltrane song, Transition.

C Jam Blues is a Duke Ellington song that I don’t see on a lot of jazz albums I review. O’Connell brings an interesting flair to the song than I’ve heard before.

Discombobulation is the final song on the album. Kind of like the title might seem to indicate, this song is a mesh of fast paced sax, drums and piano thrown together with the other instruments that incorporate the ensemble.

I have been aware of the Afro-Caribbean style of jazz for a while now. It is a very interesting mesh of instruments and styling. Bill O’Connell seems to have grasped the essence of this type of jazz music with Wind Off The Hudson.

Wind Off The Hudson is now available at various music outlets.

You will find the official Bill O’Connell web site at www.billoconnell.net

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