Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Black Butterflies, Rainbows for Ramon

The Black Butterflies return for their sophomore effort, Rainbows for Ramon (Self Release T88002) and it's good. They lock into an Afro-Latin loose groove much of the time with some hot percussion/drumming from Bopa "King" Carre, Fred Berryhill and Kenny Wollesen, with Nick Gianni making the bass a part of it as well as a hip speller of the riffs and tonalities of the tunes.

Leader Mercedes Figueras plays a hot soprano-alto-tenor configuration throughout, seconded by Tony Larokko on soprano and alto, and Levi Barcourt makes important, effective ensemble and solo sounds on piano. Mercedes has been a part of Karl Berger's big band excusions, and Karl returns the favor with his magnetic presence on this date--vibes of course but also melodica.

It's music that looks forward while hearkening back to classic Afro-out Pharoah Sanders enclaves (they even do a piece of his). Sonny Simmons-Prince Lasha's Firebirds comes to mind as well, as much for the instrumentation as Mercedes & Tony's blazing tones on alto. But they put things in their own court. This is not a derivative, it's an original.

And the pieces make it all come together. There's Gershwin's "Summertime" done with Latin flare and a Figueras band vocal (and very convincing Berger melodica), a number of very infectious numbers penned by Mercedes, especially the title track, a Karl Berger piece that hums and Tony Larokko's "Balafon Madness," which brings the African influence front and center, Karl Berger and Tony in the spotlight.

This album excels through the excellent band spirit and the grooves they set up, very tuneful and memorable songs, and the hot and loosely driving solos from Mercedes and company.

It's a breath of fresh air. Grab a copy and send the summer off with a blaze.

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