While drummer Robby Ameen is probably best known as an Afro-Cuban powerhouse, Days in the Night, his November 2015 release, is an eclectic set of musical moments that has him working in a varied set of ensembles culled from his working band and visiting a number of jazz traditions: Afro-Cuban of course, but a bit of funk as well, and a bit of hard-driving post-bop for the connoisseur. Altogether it makes for a truly rewarding multi-faceted, listening experience.
In a typical nine tune set comprised of Ameen originals, jazz classics and, in this case, only one standard from the Great American Songbook, highlights range from three duets between Ameen and Troy Roberts on tenor sax to an eight-man ensemble featuring vocals by special guest Ruben Blades on “Begin the Beguine/Se acabó la ilusión.” Ameen, as his bio points out, has been working with Blades for more than 20 years as a member of Seis del Solar.
The duets—Freddy Hubbard’s “Up Jumped Spring,” “Funkguanco,”a Roberts/Ameed original, and “Bernie’s Tune”—provide a creative opportunity to explore the dynamic interplay between the two instruments. And in the case of “Bernie’s Tune,” which closes the set, it is one of the more interesting looks at a song etched indelibly on the jazz consciousness by the Gerry Mulligan Quartet.
There are quartet versions of Sonny Rollins’ “Oleo” and Ameen’s “The Corner” with Bob Franceschini taking over on tenor, Manuel Valera on Moog, piano and Rhodes, and Lincoln Goines on bass. Both Roberts and Franceschini play tenor in the quintet on “Crowded Hour.” Conrad Herwig joins in with some sweet trombone work on “Miles to Go” and “The Pursuit.” This last opens the album and sets the tone with a nod to the Ameen groove.
Robby Ameen has been a ‘go to talent’ on the New York scene for many years. Days in the Night is just one more indication of why that is.