Tropical Delight


Vibraphonist Jay Hoggard got his start playing avant-garde gigs in New England in the early- and mid-'70s, but by the end of the decade he had shifted more toward the mainstream. Rain Forest, originally released on Contemporary in 1980, represents his willingness to bend and blend styles even after he had settled into a more commercially accessible groove.

Throughout the album's six tracks, elements of hard bop, gospel, calypso, Latin and other unlikely combinations show up in the mix. All of the material is written by Hoggard, but he does get plenty of assistance along the way from some very capable players, most notably Kenny Kirkland on keyboards, Chico Freeman on clarinet, John Koenig on guitar and cell, Paulinho Da Costa on percussion and Harvey Mason on drums.

The leadoff track is the breezy and upbeat "Reverend Libra," in which Hoggard's vibes chime out a catchy melody that moves forward with the help of Koenig's crunchy guitar and the backbeat set up by Da Costa and Mason. The subsequent offerings are equally satisfying, especially the island groove of "Sao Pablo," fueled by da Costa's rhythmic layers, and the gospel-flavored "God Will Guide," enhanced by Kirkland's ornate piano work. The title track closes the set on a tranquil and relaxing note, relying more on atmospherics than any hard and fast melodic or harmonic structure.

Not unlike the environment for which it's named, this album is full of exotic and intriguing sounds that can be surprising and seductive at the same time. Step into Hoggard's Rain Forest and experience some tropical wonders.

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