The Scene is Clean
Review: Short Cuts: Latin Jazz
by Alfredo Cruz
Baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber's latest recording, The Scene Is Clean, is, in my opinion, the best thing he's ever done. From the opening title track right through to the end, this is a record that never slows down. Even through the ballads, musically, it swings from top to bottom.
Having been a big part of the Eddie Palmieri's "post-Perfecta" sound, Ronnie's baritone now breathes the same intensity and fire as it flies through this excellent collection of Afro-Caribbean and straight-ahead tunes. The title track is one of my favorites, and opening with it really puts the rest of the recording into perspective. He also does some great stuff with overdubbing as he improvises with himself. The certainty of absolute anticipation, this immediate harmonic and linear response is really, really, hip.
"Tambien," his rendition of Palmieri's classic, "Adoracion," is another serious highlight. In the Palmieri tradition, Cuber plays a passionate legato introduction before kicking it into high gear. Aside from the great arrangement and Ronnie's playing, the keyboard work of pianist Geoff Keezer is particularly outstanding here as he invokes Palmieri's spirit. Great guitar solo on this one too!
There's also a remake of "Arroz con Pollo" here, and the arrangement sounds real fresh. I found myself recognizing the tune before knowing what it was. It was surprising to make the realization that Ronnie's tune was, in fact..."Arroz con Pollo!" There are plenty of other good musical servings here to be enjoyed.
I've been a Ronnie Cuber fan for years but, for my tastes, this is the most impressive and consistent record he's ever made. This recording is going to sound just as good as the first time the hundredth you play it.
While there certainly are, and have been, some great bari sax players in jazz, with this record, Ronnie Cuber has elevated the instrument to it's deserved heights - and you can dance to it, too! In two words, killer record! [With Milton Cardona on percussion Ed.]