Alex Acuña, Gifts, Le Coq ****

No one has total recall. We only recall bits of things even if a memory monster. But sometimes a tiny motif in a tune is enough to unlock the code. But in a 7 minute long jazz track what are you going to remember? Anything more than nothing is a …

Published: 31 Oct 2022. Updated: 36 days.

No one has total recall. We only recall bits of things even if a memory monster. But sometimes a tiny motif in a tune is enough to unlock the code. But in a 7 minute long jazz track what are you going to remember? Anything more than nothing is a plus. So many records are forgettable. Not Gifts released last month. At its heart are some classic tunes from the larder that you might think you have heard enough of already but not the case at all. What is memorable here includes the electric guitar break-out on 'Mercy Mercy, Mercy' (Ramón Stagnaro), the pitch perfect trumpet-playing on 'Amandote' (Michael Stever), a cool cello line on 'Divina' (Giovanna Clayton) - and that incredible chunky Alex Acuña substantialness that the Weather Report icon brings to the groove whether on drums or percussion. A sound that stamps itself on to the consciousness immediately you'd think only the throwaway catchinesss of pop music can but this turns that dubious notion on its head. If Acuña isn't your guru even if 50 years late to the party since his heyday meet your new guv. Proof from a master that it's too late to stop now - and never too late as a jazz listener to truly begin.

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Conrad Herwig, The Latin Side of Mingus, Savant ****1/2

First they came for the Communists And I did not speak out Because I was not a Communist Then they came for the Socialists And I did not speak out Because I was not a Socialist Then they came for the trade unionists And I did not speak out Because I …

Published: 31 Oct 2022. Updated: 36 days.

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First they came for the Communists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me

And there was no one left

To speak out for me

'First They Came' - Martin Niemöller, 1946

In this centenary year of the birth of Charles Mingus it's a good excuse, but none is needed, to listen to Mingus. One of the most recorded jazz composers in history and most vital that isn't even going to take much effort given the omnipresence of his sound and influence particularly on big band and orchestrated jazz. And it's more than even that - it is the relevance he endows our humane imagination with and how we should not take unjust shit from the authorities any more. His lens is a sociopolitical and highly critical spark that continues to ignite more than 42 years on from his death.

Rather than jump on the bandwagon Oklahoma born trombonist Conrad Herwig, who is 63 years old tomorrow, elects to continue his latin side explorations of a number of icons. Horace Silver, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter are already in the ether and the Hancock to pick one was very lit up inside. They all have a vitality that more straight and over-sincere approaches lack.

While worthy and not without its merits another centenary release from Magnus Lindgren and Georg Breinschmid's Celebrating Mingus 100 live in Berlin released back in the summer does not pack the mighty punch so tantalisingly as the weight with a smaller arsenal at his disposal that Herwig and pals plonk on the table.

Herwig himself played in the formidable Mingus Big Band on key records in the 1990s and 2000s including the best-of-all Dreyfus period. Here Herwig resumes a long time playing connection with among the personnel pianist Bill McConnell whose own records Herwig has also appeared on. Herwig brings huge presence and when you think how powerful the motion he can generate combined with the sheer traction and moving parts of the latinised stylings it's a no-brainer that you need to listen to this.

'Hora Decubitis' (''bedtime'' in the Latin language) from Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus (the same tune that is also known as 'E's Flat Ah's Flat Too') led off fabulously by Luques Curtis with Herwig riffing against the sax line of Craig Handy is a big highlight for me.

If you do nothing else today absorb the spoken word of the great Rubén Blades on 'Don’t Let It Happen Here' drawing on the words of Martin Niemöller that are as chillingly relevant today in a year rocked by war in Ukraine as when Mingus performed the piece in 1965.

The UK release date of The Latin Side of Mingus is this coming Friday