Review from "The Latin Jazz Corner"

"The development of an artist’s creative voice requires them to explore and integrate the many different pieces of their musical personality. Their primary influences need to be studied intently; this may involve the investigation of several different styles and their associated performance aesthetics. Then the artist needs to develop their own creative output through original compositions. Their ideas may follow established norms, but eventually they bend to the artist’s creative interests. While the artist focuses upon the primary genres, they occasionally need to step outside their comfort zone and experiment with other styles. This may not be their primary task, but it’s an essential activity that can only serve to stretch and challenge their artistry. After years of traveling this diverse territory, artists contain the insight to merge their interests and influences into a single distinguishable creative voice. Pianist Andy Nevala displays his strong and varied creative voice on Alone Together, with a solid set of Latin Jazz compositions and arrangements.

Creative Arrangements of Jazz Standards

Nevala focuses much of the album upon creative arrangements of jazz standards. Left hand rhythmic variations push Nevala’s interpretation of the melody on “Alone Together" over a songo rhythm. Electric bassist Matt Spencer displays a high degree of melodic invention, technical ability, and spontaneous interaction on his improvisation, creating a ferocious forward motion. Nevala plows through the song’s familiar chords with a variety of syncopated ideas that draw an active response from drummer Mike Marlier, leading into a strong montuno and an energetic solo from conguero Victor Neives. An up-tempo montuno over a staggered rhythm section introduces “Autumn Leaves," transitioning into a nicely arranged reading of the melody. Nevala takes an aggressive approach through several choruses, while Spencer develops a short yet potent statement. After revisiting the melody, Nevala and Spencer present a spacious break, allowing Marlier extensive improvisational freedom. Spencer and Marlier establish a busy 6/8 groove while Nevala and trombonist Darren Kramer play the classic melody to “Caravan." After a gorgeously developed statement from Spencer, Kramer uses a variety of moody sound effects and driving rhythmic patterns to inspire avid interaction from the band. Nevala then moves into a strong montuno while Marlier and Neives assertively trade rhythmic ideas. Nevala inserts a harmonically and rhythmically interesting montuno into the melody on “What Is This Thing Called Love," creating a unique spin on the classic standard. Nevala drives bebop lines through inventive rhythmic twists, while bassist Bijoux Barbosa displays intense technical virtuosity in a powerful solo. Drummer Brian Dillon develops a series of traditional licks into a longer statement, leading back into the familiar melody. The use of the common standards opens possibilities for improvisational freedom, while Nevala’s creative arrangements breath new life into well-worn songs.

A Different Outlook Through Original Compositions

Nevala’s original compositions provide a different outlook upon his musicality. A gentle vamp from bassist Gonzalo Teppa leads into a lush arpeggiations, a spacious melody, and an open coloristic time feel on “Nocturne." Marlier consolidates into a bossa nova feel behind Nevala’s solo, which builds from a careful series of melodies into an aggressive rhythmic attack. The percussive nature of Teppa’s acoustic bass, teamed with his assertive improvisational approach give the song a necessary push behind his solo, driving it towards the end. A stuttering montuno in 7/4 creates a strong momentum into a bluesy melody on “DotCom-Bustion." After a short solo from Nevala, Barbosa applies a treble heavy rock tone to a busy solo, full of creative rhythmic variations. The band lowers its volume for a return to the melody, leading into a powerful solo from Dillon. Nevala opens “Serpentina" with an aggressive timba-influenced montuno in 7/4 that transitions into a calm bossa nova in 6/4 for the melody. Teppa explores an extended improvisation over the 6/8 bossa nova, applying creative melodic development. The rhythm section opens up behind Nevala’s twisting statement, which transitions into an aggressive and chops-laden solo from Marlier. Nevala’s original compositions allow him to expand upon traditional Latin Jazz concepts and explore other musical ideas.

Integrating Other Musical Genres

Nevala attempts to integrate other musical genres into his voice, finding varying degrees of success. The melody to Sting’s “Fragile" floats over a time-stretching series of arpeggios and colorful embellishments from Marlier and Teppa. Nevala’s solo travels through the song’s limited harmony with rapid phrases and a bossa nova backdrop. Teppa takes a thoughtful approach to his improvisation, balancing strong lines with pieces of the melody. Violinist Nicole Routman adds an authentic flavor to the band’s danzon treatment of “Tres Lindas Cubanas." The group transitions into a traditional son for solos, which inspires a series of tipico phrases from Nevala. Bassist Jimmy Trujillo reveals a solid background in traditional performance with an authentic improvisation until Neives and timbalero Jose Espino end the descarga with a high-energy exchange. These pieces demonstrate Nevala’s willingness to experiment and explore different influences outside jazz.

The Emergence of a Mature Creative Voice

Nevala displays the emergence of a mature creative voice on Alone Together. His creative arrangements of jazz standards show his mastery in both jazz and Latin worlds, as well as the ability to make connections between them. The extensive improvisational opportunities in these pieces present the chance to hear Nevala’s solo skills which both reference history and demonstrate his ability to creatively manipulate melodic material. The integration of odd-time signatures into traditional Latin Jazz structures reveals an experimental compositional style that pays off with interesting music and inspired performances. His dip into pop music with Sting’s “Fragile" serves as a slight misdirection, but it stands as an interesting risk in the context of a traditional Latin Jazz album. Nevala integrates several different combinations of musicians into the album, which helps emphasize the various sides of his musicality. The constant emergence of new personalities keeps the overall album fresh and seems to motivate Nevala’s already strong musical drive. Nevala creates a refreshing and recognizable voice on Alone Together; his strong basis in tradition and creative interpretation makes him stand out as a voice that will be heard again soon." The Latin Jazz Corner , Chip Boaz