Charlie Sepúlveda | Songs for Nat

by Stamish Malcuss

Charlie Sepúlveda is a Puerto Rican trumpeter player that has been a fixture of the Latin jazz-world scene since the late 1980s when he played in the band of pianist and composer Eddie Palmieri. Sepúlveda has been a part of el jazz Latino in a big way for decades, touring and recording with an array of great artists including: Tito Puente and the Golden Latin Jazz All Stars, Dizzy Gillespie and the United Nation Orchestra, Wynton Marsalis, Hilton Ruiz, Steve Turre, Dave Valentin, Danilo Pérez, and Paul Simon among others. He launched his own group, The Turnaround, 25 years ago, and has been turning the tables on the traditional Latin jazz format ever since. The Turnaround is: Norberto Ortiz on tenor saxophone, Gabriel Rodriguez on bass, Bienvenido Dinzey on piano and B-3 organ (track 4 only), Francisco Alcala on drums and Gadwin Vargas on congas. Charlie Sepúlveda and the Turnaround have released, Songs for Nat, a collection of nine tracks the represents some of the best sounds Latin jazz has to offer.

“Exit 4” starts off with an aggressive rhythmic figure that is continued while the horns come in to play the melody. The B sections smooths the feel out and is a nice flowing answer to the repeating motif of the A section.  Sepúlveda’s trumpet solo is stunning. His tone is rich and focused, his phrasing is full of jazz colors with Latin rhythms and articulations. The Latin feel is maintained under his solo by the rock-solid rhythm section of Rodriguez’s syncopated bass lines and Alcala’s clave inspired kit work with commentary by Vargas’ congas. They shift to swing for Ortiz’s solo, as the tenor man spins out bop vocabulary with ease and authority. The feel is then switched back to Latin as Ortiz continues his Latin jazz story telling with colorful commentary. The same theme is kept for Dinzey’s solo, although the swing feel is kept longer for the pianist to expand upon and explore. This band is killing it, true authority with excellent communication and comradery between the players.

The ensemble shows-off their medium tempo skills on “402b Blues.” Balancing the fine art of keeping the energy moving forward and growing without rushing, which they do with style and finesse. Sepúlveda’s solo is melodic and succinct in its clarity of harmony and rhythm. Ortiz’s push is excellent as the band holds the reins, this is a perfect example of tension and release. Ortiz’s chordal playing with single note fills is utterly enjoyable. This is straight ahead Latin jazz done with style and authenticity that keeps the genre alive while at the same time moving it forward.

Songs for Nat is a welcomed addition to the Latin jazz cannon, fresh in its feel, flow and emotive playing.  Latin jazz is on an upswing in the industry as the trending for Latin music in general is one of the top selling genres for 2018.  Songs for Nat has positioned itself not only as a lasting piece in Charlie Sepúlveda’s discography, but it also has the potential to reach across genre lines due to its rock-solid Latino appeal.

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