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October 1, 2013 - 11:15pm

The Liner Notes: Latin jazz takes center stage


Motéma Music LLC

Latin jazz takes center stage in this week’s album releases, with the Pedro Martinez Group’s newest record streaming on NPR and a rehash of Miles Davis’s influential 1960 album Sketches of Spain by trumpeter Nicholas Payton.

In other news, pianist Vijay Iyer — whose latest work chronicling the poetry of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan I covered a few weeks back — has landed himself amongst this year’s recipients of the prestigious MacArthur “Genius Grant.” The MacArthur Foundation described the critically-acclaimed pianist as “an ardent investigator of musical communities, practices, histories and theories,” awarding him $625,000 as an incentive to keep pursuing his wide-ranging interests, including not only his exceptional trio recordings but also his scholarly writings on the cognitive science of music. Iyer will also be joining the faculty of Harvard University’s Department of Music next year, adding more yet to his already impressive resume. NPR just published an interview with Iyer in which he discusses his latest album and the Genius Grant here.


The Pedrito Martinez Group
The Pedrito Martinez Group
Motéma Music LLC

Pedrito Martinez has been making waves in the jazz world since he left Cuba to perform with Canadian bandleader Jane Bunnett in 1998, winning himself first prize at the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 2000 and forming part of the Grammy-nominated Afro-Cuban/Afro-beat band Yerba Buena. He formed his current band, the Pedrito Martinez Group, in 2008 but hasn’t released a studio album until now. The eponymous work features all the bombast and charisma of Afro-Cuban music on more traditional songs like the opening track “Conciencia,” while crossing genre borders by applying their driving percussion to covers of Led Zeppelin’s “Travelling Riverside Blues” or the Jackson Five’s “I’ll Be There.” The album’s official release date isn’t until next week, but you can stream the songs in full on NPR right now.

Sketches of Spain
Nicholas Payton

Trumpeter Nicholas Payton has given himself a difficult task in living up to Miles Davis’s iconic 1960 album on his own live recording of the same name, Sketches of Spain. The original record was an exemplar of the so-called “Third Stream” genre, a mixture of classical music and jazz improvisation. Payton lives up to the challenge, however, delivering a faithful recreation of Davis’s work. Although it doesn’t really add anything new to the original album, it’s still interesting to hear the old work redone by a modern perform. Several of the songs are streaming on Soundcloud here.