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Mauricio Smith, "Madera," CD, TL-14986.10

Review: Madera

by Chico Alvarez

I was one of those people who thought that Mauricio Smith would never record again. I’m glad I was wrong. Deep down, I prayed that he would. Now the long-awaited CD by the Panamanian flutist and reedman is here. And there’s no doubt in my mind that it will be received with much enthusiasm, not only by his fans and admirers, but by those self-appointed critics who seem to take pleasure in tearing an artist apart.
As Gabe Romero’s liner notes attest, Mauricio Smith performs his music with religious fervor. He is one of those rare musicians whose skills by far surpass his fame. Equally at home playing jazz as he is playing Caribbean “sauce,” his credits list like an entry in Who’s Who. His arrangements can be found in the repertoire of every major performer of Latin music. An accomplished producer for over twenty years, he clearly illustrates on “Madera” why many a recording artist and A&R man have tapped into his studio skills.
But let’s get back to Mauricio Smith the musician. Rather than go on elaborating, let me just recommend that you pick up his latest, but hopefully not his last, CD and judge for yourselves. The rhythms and moods vary throughout this recording, creating a rainbow of sounds that complement each other. Traditional rhythms meet the sounds of today, without losing their essence, allowing the gifted flutist to play close to the roots, get bluesy, or just plain swing. Mauricio shows a remarkable talent for transforming harmonic structures into melodies. He is in full control, playing the lead role, but he is not alone. Special mention must be made of the sidemen, as well as the material. There are eight original songs and two standards. “Madera,” the title track, and “Eternal Struggle” are two of Mauricio’s best works yet. Cole Porter’s “I Love You” is nicely done, and Marco Rizo’s “Afro Samba” Is a gem. The sensuous “Otońo” by Jose Gallegos and Eddie Martinez’ “Laye” are my personal favorites. All in all, this CD is truly something to look forward to. So go ahead, it’s up to you now.

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