Friday, March 14, 2014

The Puppeteers, O'Farrill, Ware, Blake, Affoumado

When a group has much in the way of cooking heat it almost doesn't fit to call them a "straight-ahead" outfit. Art Blakey's Messengers were too blistering to be mainstream. Not exactly. And much of what is now "straight-ahead" was at one time "avant garde". Bird.

So when I am contemplating the new jazz outfit known as the Puppeteers, as I audition their first album (puppet's records), I think these thoughts. Because this band is hard swinging all the way. With Arturo O'Farrill manning the piano chair, there is a Latin tinge going for it, too.

The band is a quartet. Arturo plays a very hard-charging piano, no surprise there, with bop through Tyner and Latin being channelled inimitably with his excellent presence on the album. In Jaime Affoumado on drums they have a secret weapon for the drive they achieve. He has the push, the feel, the chops to liven up anyone, and these players take advantage with great spirit in response. Bill Ware, an excellent vibist, brings mallet color and definite accomplishment to the stage, infusing Bags, Burtonian and Hutchersonian roots with his own sense.

Then we have electric and acoustic bassist Alex Blake--who solos with the best of them, sometimes singing along with the bass notes in the manner but not the Popeye voice-quality of Slam Stewart. In the ensemble he is the right driving force to team with Jaime.

So the band is excellent and hip at that. But they would not be as interesting or vital had they not the tune-smithing chops of all four. Eight of the nine numbers are penned by band members and they are very good at getting things burning in the manner of their distinctive selves. . . the Puppeteers.

I would imagine that this is a band to hear live. If you happen to be around Manhattan this March 20th, they are celebrating the release at Birdland starting at 6 p.m. The album speaks for itself in any event, and what it says is "join us and get the spirit!" If you want the immediacy and satisfaction of cooking with a real potful. . . here it is.


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