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Israel Tanenbaum Impressions album cover

Music Reviews: Two Facets of Latin Jazz – Israel Tanenbaum, ‘Impressions’ and Ben Sher, ‘Samba for Tarsila’

Two new releases from ZOHO Music show very different perspectives on Latin jazz. One is venerable producer/arranger/keyboardist/composer Israel Tanenbaum’s first “solo” album; on the other, guitarist Ben Sher finds a low-key Brazilian jazz-fusion feel.

Israel Tanenbaum & the Latinbaum Jazz Ensemble, Impressions

This groove-soaked release is a first for longtime producer, keyboardist and composer Israel Tanenbaum: a Latin jazz “solo album” of his own songs and arrangements. A rich bed of Latin rhythms from a team of percussionists, choppy bass lines from John Benitez, and Tanenbaum’s precision keyboard work, ride under perky horn riffs and motives and smooth solos. Salsa, mambo, bolero, descargo, cha cha, guarache – the rhythms play games in your head, boiling over, settling in, happily overflowing again.

Tunes like “Mambo Raro” and the prickly danzón “Vaya” take traditional grooves in salty new directions. The flute-flecked romantic ballad “Steamy Patricia” despite its weird title proves unexpectedly moving. Broadening the sonic and stylistic palette are a piece based on a Chopin prelude featuring a soulful bass solo from Benitez, and a song-length improvised piano interlude.

“I’ve produced so much music for so many artists and that’s been fulfilling to me,” Tanenbaum says. “Now at this stage of the game, I’ve decided, ‘It’s about time you do something for yourself.'” When you’re a consummate musician like him, something for yourself is a gift for us all. Impressions is out now on ZOHO Music and available online.

Ben Sher, Samba for Tarsila

Another ZOHO release on the Latin jazz tip is this homage to Brazilian modernist painter Tarsila de Aguiar do Amaral from guitarist Ben Sher. Samba for Tarsila features spare accounts of Brazilian classics, Sher originals, a slightly deconstructed “On Green Dolphin Street,” and a smooth “Never Can Say Goodbye” (the Jackson 5 hit).

Ben Sher Samba for Tarsila album cover

All feature Sher’s fluid, often subtle acoustic and electric guitar stylings, leading off with his absorbing solo on his own “Antropofagia,” as well as shining work from Gary Fisher on keyboards. With restrained backing from Gregory M. Jones on electric bass and Vanderlei Pereira on drums, Sher conveys his distinctive feel for the gentle sway of Brazilian jazz-fusion. You feel like you’re in the room with this quartet, and the vibe is pure chill. Samba for Tarsila is available now.

About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Music, where he covers classical music (old and new) and other genres, and Culture, where he reviews NYC theater. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at http://www.orenhope.com/ you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at http://parkodyssey.blogspot.com/ where he is on a mission to visit every park in New York City. He has also been a part-time working musician, including as lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado.

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