World & Latin

CJP Rearranges

31 MAR 08 JOHN C. BRUENING

Caribbean Jazz Project's aptly titled Afro Bop Alliance is what happens when two of the most innovative Latin jazz bands north of the Equator pool their talents and resources as composers, musicians and arrangers.

Vibraphonist Dave Samuels co-founded the Caribbean Jazz Project in the early 1990s with saxophonist Paquito d'Rivera and steel pan drummer Andy Narell. D'Rivera and Narell have since moved on, but Samuels keeps the project alive by handpicking players for each successive recording and tour. This time, he enlists the aid of the Maryland-based Afro Bop Alliance to come up with fresh new horn-intensive arrangements for nine of CJP's signature pieces -- some by Samuels himself, others by a few of the most influential composers in jazz.

Arrangements by Afro Bop trombonist Dan Drew bring a level of energy to the nine-song set that complements but never crowds the CJP rhythm section of bassist Max Murray, drummer Joe McCarthy and percussionist Roberto Quintero. Floating above it all is Samuels' shimmering vibe work, which brings countless layers of subtlety and complexity to Coltrane's "Naima" and Monk's "Bemsha Swing," as well as several of Samuels own compositions, most notably "Rendezvous," "Five for Elvin" and "Picture Frame."

"Repackaging something that had been played a lot in a smaller group made me hear the music in a new light," says Samuels. "If you're the performer, you react to it differently. And if you're the listener, you may have head these tunes with a small group, but it's a completely different experience hearing it with this big band."