If the blues are about pain and the soul, jazz is all about attitude and experimentation. I love listening to jazz, because the musical riffs often head off into unexpected, occasionally uncharted territory. Musica Romantica, the latest entry in Concord Records' Colors of Latin Jazz, offers another foray into the smoky, sultry world of jazz. The songs on this album conjure up images in my mind, reminiscent of black and white film noir with a sudden, wonderful splash of color - a dash of salsa, a shot of salsa. In the world of noir, it's all jazz, and jazz is good.
Musica Romantica features ten lustrous songs that veer between playful and sensual: this is jazz at its most romantic, it's jazz as a tool of seduction, the soundtrack to that proverbial "romantic evening." We've got the casual, comfortable pulse of Poncho Sanchez' "Dulce Amor" and the silky, yet occasionally edgy beat of Tito Puente's "Sophisticated Lady." The differences between each song - from wistful to lustful - only serve to further the disc's overall mood, the kind of songs that bring a smile to the corner of your mouth while you move in time to the beat.
From the plaintive wail of a saxaphone to the passionate piano solos on "Tema Para Renee," Musica Romantica really is the musical equivalent of "slipping into something a little more comfortable." It offers lazy, sultry indolence in songs that linger with a smoky haze but don't require dry cleaning later.
Each year I spend about six weeks in Miami on business, and we stay down on South Beach. The old art deco hotels don't dominate like they used to, simply because developers keep building larger hotels further down from them. Nonetheless, the art deco influences remain, and for me at least there's also a connection to the film noir images of the 40s and 50s. There are classic hotel advertisements from that period which look like they could have been sets from Humphrey Bogart films (Key Largo among them). Despite the hustle of the urban sprawl that now stretches from Miami to Fort Lauderdale and northward past Palm Beach, the spirit of that quieter, peaceful tropical experience still lingers here and there along the beaches. Musica Romantica offers another glimmer of the same thing with its romantic fusion of tropical Latin music and timeless jazz.