Friday, 20 July 2007

Trio Gitano...

In an effort to provide you with a bit of fun for the weekend, the scathing review theme continues. Few CDs have ever come my way that have been as unsatisfying as this one. As ever, I think that I went the extra mile to try to understand it...

Who Ate All The Tapas?
The Birds Recording Company (CD 1001)

Latin Swing; Minor Blues; Adagio; Spanish Cinema; Baiao De Gude; Take 5; Heroes Part I: Prelude; Part II: Paganini Passing; Part III: Heroes; Part IV: Dance & Cadenza; Saeta; On The Run; Blue Drag.

Jamie Fekete, Sophie Johnson, Sam Slater (g); Bryan Corbett (t/flh), (Recorded Summer 2004).

A strange title at first sight, but by the time we get to the third track, an adaptation of Rodriguez’ “Concerto de Aranjuez”, it is apparent that this is exactly the kind of inoffensive jazz-lite heard in swanky tapas bars and bistros the worldover. Thirteen tracks, each barely breaking the four minute barrier, slickly executed but lacking the kinds of rough edges that would tell you this is jazz, a music of spontanaeity.

Formed in 2001, Trio Gitano are a guitar trio drawing on a range of influences, from gypsy jazz to classical, flamenco and other folk forms. They even have a musical director, Bryan Lester, who arranges much of the material. A string of appearances at clubs, theatres and festivals has put them on the map, and I can’t imagine they’d disappoint casual listeners with their tightly drilled delivery.

Not unlike Nigel Kennedy’s forgettable foray into jazz, this is music aimed at people who think they like jazz but probably turn edgy whenever the melody seems to be too far away. Trumpet and flugelhorn player Bryan Corbett spices things up on three of the tracks, the aforementioned “Concerto”, “Spanish Cinema” and “Saeta”. If it’s an attempt to evoke Sketches of Spain then perhaps Kenny G can be the next Coltrane.

Paul Desmond’s “Take 5”, perhaps the one piece of jazz that more people are unconsciously familiar with than any other, gets the luxury of a six minute rendition. Hardly a workout, but the trio do at least attempt something of substance.

Taken on its own terms, which ultimately it has to be, Who Ate All The Tapas? is pleasant, pretty music with enough virtuosity to engage even attentive listeners. For the more demanding jazz audience, however, tapas alone will never fill a hungry belly.

Fred Grand
(Jazz Review, October 2005)


Guntram said...

Ironically I've just come across your blog after searching for this band's website - having now seen them live (Cheltenham Jazz Festival a year or two ago) and also acquired the CD, I have to say your review seems somewhat harsh and condescending for a first album from a band of relatively young players. Agreed one or two tracks are a little generic, but the overall scope, musicianship and writing/arranging I found very enjoyable.

I consider myself a discerning jazz listener and festival/gig goer, having just returned from a weekend jazz-oogling in NYC, and really can't compare this to any of the junk churned out by Kenny G. Surely everything doesn't have to be modeled on Ascension (however great it may be)?!

On a different note, what do you make of some of Martin Taylor's 'lite' jazz?


Ferdinand said...

Thanks for the feedback, and it's exactly the kind of thing I was after when I started this blog!

You've come here at a time when I'm posting several reviews of CDs that I was a little cool about - unfortunate given your interest in this trio. Rest assured that Martin Taylor would get similar treatment if I found his music lacking in any way.

I take your points about the trio's musicianship, but I acknowledge in the review that this is not really the trio's problem. They can certainly play, I just didn't hear much improvisation or development in their music. Perhaps they're a 'live' band and this CD doesn't do them justice?

The reference to Kenny G was not to indicate that this music occupies a similar niche - it was simply a comparative way of saying that it sounded as far away from being great jazz as Kenny G is from being John Coltrane.

First album or not, I feel a responsibility to warn people of what I see as the pitfalls of any CD before they spend their hard earned cash. Of course I'm pleased that you enjoy this (and other jazz) and feel strongly enough to say so.

Thanks again, and don't be afraid to check back for lots of reviews that strike a more positive note...