Red + Ray = Rojo


Pianist Red Garland nearly made too many supporting appearances on Prestige Records led by Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and other jazz legends, to count. For his own recordings, Garland seemed to favor the trio format, but he expanded that trio sound to incorporate the rhythmic fire of Ray Barretto's congas on two late-1950s classics: Manteca (OJC, 1990) and Rojo (OJC, '93).

Except for one ballad -- the gorgeously tranquil "We Kiss In A Shadow," which he sits out -- Barretto's congas kick up Rojo's beat into one steady rocking Latin groove. Barretto's congas don't sound added onto, but like an integral part, of Garland's ensemble. Together, the pianist and conguero powerfully swing these tunes. Garland lays down the title track (an original, on-the-spot romp based on "Love For Sale") with piano that's elegant, blue, and funky, and then coolly dissects its melodic framework while drums and congas bounce hot rhythms between them. Garland's chords in his original "Ralph J. Gleason Blues" crackle with energy, and his phrasing and twirling runs in "Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup" sound sparkling and impeccable.

Rojo followed Manteca, which added Barretto's percolating congas to the trio with which Garland recorded most, with drummer Arthur Taylor and bassist Paul Chambers (Garland's sidekick in the rhythm section of the first great Miles Davis Quintet). Other titles by this trio include All Kinds Of Weather (OJC, '90), A Garland Of Red (OJC, '91), Groovy (OJC, '97), and It's A Blue World (OJC, '99).