Wayne Wallace: Freedom Jazz Dance (Baile de Libertad)

Despite the hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth over the shrinking jazz audience, the Latin jazz scene seems to be thriving on the West Coast. In the last few days, Poncho Sanchez released his 24th album on Concord (more than a quarter of a century with the same label!); Mark Levine is garnering well-deserved airplay with his Moacir Santos tribute; and now Wayne Wallace continues his tradition of launching a hot Latin jazz release every year with ¡Bien Bien!. I don't know if it is shifting attitudes, changing demographics, or just a favorable alignment of the stars Alpha Escovedo and Tjader Centauri, but clave is clearly alive and well on the Pacific shores.

In Wallace's case, it's even appropriating new territory. Eddie Harris's song "Freedom Jazz Dance" is now recast as "Baile de Libertad." In its original form, this song always struck me as a thinly disguised practice room exercise—the kind hornplayers work over to develop facility in playing interval leaps. In other words, it's a clever melody line but somewhat contrived. Yet "Freedom Jazz Dance" finds a new freedom here. The arrangement is smart, with new harmonies, changing rhythms, and a winning call-and-response vocal. Wallace contributes a fine solo, and the rhythm section gets high marks.

October 06, 2009 · 0 comments


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