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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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OMAR PUENTE

From There to Here

Destin-E 777G20011962

 

 


1. My Mrs
2. Somebody Backstage (Danzon)
3. Rumbiando
4. Just Like U
5. You Are Too Beautiful
6. Apunta Un Lapiz
7. Swings and Roundabouts
8. Talking Bata
9. Think Carefully
10. Motherland Pulse

Omar Puente - Electric and acoustic violin
Robert Mitchell - Piano, organ
Jimmy Martinez - Double bass (tracks 1-4, 7, 10)
Darren Taylor - Double bass (tracks 5, 6, 8, 9)
Oscar Martinez - Congas, bongoes, coconut woodblocks, timbales, bata drums
Michel Castellano - Drums (tracks 1, 3-10)
Courtney Pine - Flute, bass clarinet, soprano sax, tenor sax, baritone sax, keyboards (tracks 2-4, 6, 8-10)
Cameron Pierre - Acoustic guitar (tracks 3, 4, 8)
Dennis Rollins - Trombone (tracks 3, 8, 9)
Dorance Lorza - Cuban guitar (tres), backing vocals (tracks 2, 9, 10)
Antonio Zapata - Background vocals, guiro (tracks 2, 3, 9, 10)
Helen Correa - Violin (tracks 3, 10)
Natalie Taylor - Viola (tracks 3, 10)
Jenny Adejayan - Cello (tracks 3, 10)
Babatunde Ayandosu - Bata drum (track 8)
Rasaq Ayandele Oregarde - Omele bata drum (track 8)
Ricardo Pompa - Lead vocals (tracks 8, 9)
Eska Mtungwazi - Lead vocals (track 10).
Elpidio Calcedo - Backing vocals (tracks 2, 8, 9, 10)
Members of the Harrow Youth Choir - Backing vocals (track 10)

 

In my reviews of albums by the Jazz Warriors and Courtney Pine, I have already noted the abilities of Cuban violinist Omar Puente. But this is Omar's debut album under his own name - and it's very impressive. Puente trained as a classical violinist but listened to lots of jazz before moving to the UK in 1997. He calls himself "a classical musician whose heart beats with a Cuban rhythm, whose soul is African, and whose home is Yorkshire".

This mixture of influences is clear in the music on this CD, for which all the tunes except one were composed by Omar. The Cuban and Latin-jazz rhythms on the opening track immediately light up the album with warmth. Omar plays the electric violin with a sound that might be described as reminscent of Jean Luc Ponty, although his playing sometimes can have a hard edge to it, which gives it added bite. In fact it is fair to say that Puente makes the violin sound different from how we have heard it before. Part of this is down to his use of various effects pedals.

Mind you, he can be as rhapsodic as Stephane Grappelli (although without such a sweet tone), as in parts of Rumbiando, which also has a powerful trombone solo from Dennis Rollins. Rodgers & Hart's You Are Too Beautiful proves that Omar is capable of rich lyricism. The variety in his compositions can be heard in such tracks as Just Like U, which has elements of African rhythm mixed in with a Weather Report feel, while Omar's violin solo has the furious intensity of Stuff Smith.

An unaccompanied cadenza in Apunta Un Lapiz reveals Puente's classical training. Talking Bata features the conical bata drum which is common to Nigeria and Cuba and the song has a distinct African atmosphere, with chanting vocals followed by weird miaowing sounds from the violin. Think Carefully sets the violin against typically Cuban rhythms. The CD ends with Motherland Pulse, an almost folky song in which singer Eska Mtungwazi declaims in praise of Africa: "I'm so very glad to know that you're my home" with choral backing.

Omar Puente was in the news earlier this year when his wife, Debbie Purdy (who suffers from multiple sclerosis) won a court case attempting to clarify the rules about assisted suicide. This album will ensure that Omar Puente is in the news for his music and musicianship.

Tony Augarde



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