Trumpeter Jonathan Powell combines his profound experience in the New York Latin jazz scene with his depth of love for electric jazz on Mambo Jazz Party, out August 9 via Circle 9

From the first seconds of the opening track, trumpeter Jonathan Powell immediately signals that his new album Mambo Jazz Party is no ordinary record. With irresistible layers of groove and the indomitably danceable feels of Latin Jazz spurred eternally forward by the campana (cowbell), the audience is instantly hooked. Drawing on two decades of expertise as a sideman for Latin Jazz legends such as Eddie Palmieri, Arturo O’Farrill, Miguel Zenon, Oscar Hernandez and the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, and Tito Puente Jr., Powell assembles a rotating 18-piece ensemble that brings the party of great, danceable Latin Jazz and Mambo and combines it with the aesthetic of modern electric jazz on Mambo Jazz Party, releasing August 9, 2024 via Circle 9. 

The ideas that inspired Mambo Jazz Party began with a conversation with a colleague, a bongocero who was leading a masterclass to a group of students. In this lesson, the bongocero explained the importance of the campana in salsa and mambo music and said simply that “when you see and hear the bongocero player swap to the campana, you know it’s party time.” The simple truth and joy of this statement struck Powell and stuck with him thereafter. Powell remarks, “I always loved the montuno/descarga part of the tune where the band goes beyond the notes written on the page and just makes the party and energy happen.”

Mambo Jazz Party derives its name from the noble quest to capture the essence of that “party time” of which the bongocero spoke. Aligning himself firmly within the lineage of Latin Jazz and Mambo, Powell pays homage to the masters with whom he’s had the privilege to work, both through the authenticity of the performance and the song selection. The difference on this album, however, comes with that which is not typically found on a Latin Jazz record. Enthused by the sounds of modern electric jazz and the great history of electric jazz fusion, Powell draws directly on the sounds of artists like Chick Corea and Return to Forever, Headhunters, Weather Report, Kneebody, Snarky Puppy, and even Thundercat. Add to this the sonic textures of the tabla from the Carnatic music that Powell studied during his teens and the contemporary harmonic concept of crossover jazz artists and one begins to understand the intricacies of the layers that are present in how Powell takes the genre and, in his own words, “bends” it.

The album features a curated blend of original compositions and arrangements, both of which come together to acknowledge the various traditions and pioneers who paved the way for Powell, directly and indirectly. “Juancito” is an ode to the great Puerto Rican trumpeter Juancito Torres, and features a solo by living legend trombonist Jimmy Bosch. “Hope” is an original by Powell that was written during the pandemic and uses meditative and chant-like elements within the melody to create a mantra evoking the idea of hope. Atop this musical cogitation comes guitarist Nir Felder’s searing solo that fans into flame the entire work. The album’s co-producer Doug Beavers contributed the arrangement of Chick Corea’s “You’re Everything”. In this version, the melody is reworked in spanish and the piece is presented within the salsa idiom. Powell’s arrangement of Joe Henderson’s timeless “Inner Urge” uses ever-shifting time signatures to emphasize and reimagine the harmonic structure in newfound ways. The great Eddie Palmieri is actively acknowledged by the band through the arrangement of “Un Dia Bonita II”, reworked by Angel Fernandez and featuring vocals by Anthony Almonte.

Mambo Jazz Party features a scintillating personnel list in varying combinations throughout the album. Featuring the bandleader, Jonathan Powell, on trumpet and flugelhorn, Mambo Jazz Party comprises Andrew Gould (alto saxophone), the bandleader’s brother, Jeremy Powell (tenor saxophone, flute), Jimmy Bosch (trombone), Doug Beavers (trombone), Itai Kriss (flute), Louis Fouche (alto saxophone), Nir Felder (electric guitar), Axel Tosca (piano, rhodes, synthesizer), Manuel Valera (rhodes, synthesizer), Luques Curtis (bass), Camilo Molina (drums, timbales, percussion), Marcos Lopez (congas), Marcos Torres (congas), Luisito Quintero (bongos, campana, percussion), Ariacne Trujillo (lead voice), Anthony Almonte (lead voice, choir), Jeremy Bosch (choir). Of this group of exemplary musicians Powell remarks, “They each brought their personal voice, experience and really personified the title. We were just a group of friends having fun in the studio.” 

With Mambo Jazz Party, Jonathan Powell has created a unique musical world in which artistry, energy, and sheer unbridled possibility coincide in a kaleidoscope of mastery. As Powell turns the imagined into reality, he does so in a way that no matter how complex, simple, artistic, or roots any moment may feel, at all times a listener maintains the sense that indeed, it is “party time”.

Mambo Jazz Party releases August 9 on Circle 9 Records. 

 

Tracklist:

1 – Juancito (feat. Jimmy Bosch & Louis Fouche) – 07:05
2 – Hope (feat. Nir Felder & Itai Kriss) – 06:48
3 – You’re Everything (feat. Ariacne Trujilo) – 05:54
4 – Butterfly (feat. Manuel Valera) – 06:03
5 – Inner Urge – 06:49
6 – Un Dia Bonito [Intro] – 01:46
7 – Un Dia Bonito (feat. Anthony Almonte) – 06:30
8 – Frogwala – 04:59
9 – Alone, Alone and Alone – 05:48
10 – Paramahansa – 7:36
11 – Yogananda (feat. Manuel Valera and Itai Kriss) – 05:02
12 – Juguetón-03:59
13 – Totem Pole – 07:04

 

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