Bennett Paster & Gregory Ryan: Grupo Yanqui (2002)
If it were somehow possible to bottle or otherwise channel the energy of this group and use it to generate electricity, the country would hardly ever need to worry about power outages. An exaggeration perhaps, but still an apt description of the heat this group generates with just five players performing at any one time. Led by Bennett Paster on piano and Gregory Ryan on acoustic and Fender basses, they attack a play list of eleven pieces, mostly with some sort of Latin beat provided by Rob Garcia's drums and the percussive instruments of either Dafnis Prieto or Gilad. This doesn't mean that all the songs are done at break neck speed. To the contrary, there are elaborate rhythms and harmonies that take time to unfold and which are played at a tempo allowing the listener to get the full impact of each melody's maturation process. A case in point is an eight-minute exploration of the intricacies of Paster's "Mona Se Queda " with Paster's piano the foil against which the other members of the group add their ideas, especially Yosvany Terry Cabrera's acrid soprano sax. There's a bit of pensiveness added along with the way with another Paster original - - he wrote six of the 11-piece play list - - "Fantasy". Another of the album's treats is "How Are Things in Gloccamora?" from the 1946 musical Finian's Rainbow where the wondrous Ella Logan made this tune. These guys don't play it quite the same way Logan sang it lo those 50 plus years ago. After a respectful first chorus, the tune gets the Latin beat treatment complete with Xavier Cugat like vocal call and response with piano and sax. Still respectful, but different and viva la difference. Perhaps the next time they can diversify the play list somewhat so one can hear how they would handle some familiar Brazilian-based material. In the meantime, this album will do very well and is recommended.
Track Listing: Miller Time; Mona Se Queda; How Are Things in Gloccamora?; Elna; Storytime; Fantasy; Tema Para Yosvany; May Eye; Que Venga el Dia; Oaktown Morning Blues; Cactus Mambo
Personnel: Bennett Paster - Piano; Gregory Ryan - Acoustic/Fender Basses; Rob Garcia - Drums; Yosvany Terry Cabrera - Alto & Soprano Sax; Chris Cheek - Tenor and Soprano Sax; Dafnis Prieto - Percussion; Gilad - Percussion.
Record Label: Dandelion Grooves