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Manana by Willie and Lobo

I have to admit that I was tempted to send this recording back to the editors of jazzreview.com. I signed on to review jazz recordings and my initial response was that this did not qualify. That does not mean that it is a bad recording, but it's not jazz by any criteria I am aware of. Of course, that raises the thorny question of what jazz actually is. According to Chick Corea, jazz is "what the person who said the word meant when he said jazz." This indicates the problem very clearly. Perhaps some, or many, jazzreview.com readers are Willie and Lobo fans, or find them to be jazz artists. I do not pretend to have an inner track on the perfect definition for this elusive genre. And it is an issue I have been grappling with while working on my current book The Flute in Jazz: Window on World Music, as many of the flutists I have interviewed have interests in decidedly non-jazz genres, from contemporary compositional techniques to charanga to gagaku. I tend to agree with one of these musicians, flutists and tenor saxophonist Lew Tabackin, who expressed the view that jazz is, above all, a certain sensibility. And that sensibility is, for the most part, lacking from Willie and Lobo. Even if they qualify as some genre on the periphery of jazz - maybe gypsy-folk-jazz - that sensibility still needs to infuse their sound but it does not. And, sadly, the same or very similar sensibility needs to inhabit other World-Music genres, such as flamenco. So the problem is more than a failure to play bebop.

Having said this, what can I say about this music? The CD notes speak of ". . . dreamy days on Mexican and Hawaiian beaches . . . . a seductive flamenco dance in the hills of Sacramonte . . . and a faraway Arabian caravan." So it lays claim to a World Music portfolio. Unfortunately, the best that Willie and Lobo can offer is a watered-down, easy-listening travelogue that touches on these cultures without ever capturing their essence. There are literally hundreds of recordings that represent these musics better than the tracks offered here. Fink and Royal are not bad players, and they have their moments, particularly the guitar work on Fuegando and some nice violin and guitar on Sacromonte Sunrise. But for the most part this belongs on the audio channel for your next long haul airline flight. I think I'll stick with the movie.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Willie and Lobo
  • CD Title: Manana
  • Genre: Folk Jazz
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: Narada
  • Tracks: El Tubo, Mañana, El Desperado, La Bolita, Oriental Gypsy, Fuegando, Saudade, Sacromonte, Sunrise, Laura Lorenza, La Playa, Caravan of Camels
  • Musicians: Wolfgang Fink (guitar), Willie Royal (violin, guitar, voice), Gil Gutierrez (tresillo, guitar),John Leftwich (bass ), Scott Breadman (percussion), Brad Dutz (percussion), Jeff Pavar (guitar),Tripp Sprague (tenor sax, soprano sax, harmonica) Tony Hemecke (synthesizer).
  • Rating: Two Stars
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