Born Jose Calderon in Spanish Harlem N.Y.C. of Puerto Rican parentage, conga player anad bandleader Joe Cuba was one of the most successful N.Y. Latin artists in crossing over to non-hispanic audiences. At the forefront of the Latin boogaloo trend, which incorporated black music in a fusion of Latin rhythms and piano montunos with R&B and even jazz, his sextet used English to penetrate the American public, sometimes using themes which incorporated the two languages. Tnis CD of some of the finest work by the Joe Cuba Sextet is compiled from the five key albums Steppin Out, Diggin' The Most, Comin' At You , Breakin' Out, and Para Enamorados Siempre, which they recorded for the revered N.Y. Seeco label from 1962-64. The Joe Cuba Sextet played more than boogaloo. As you will hear on this CD, their repertoire features superb Latin-jazz, joyful mambo, cha cha, bolero, guaracha and other Afro-Cuban rythms including a grooving version of Tito Puente's 'Oye Como Va'.
Viva Caruso is easily one of tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano's most ambitious and enjoyable recordings. Much like Terence Blanchard's Jazz in Film or Uri Caine's Urlicht/Primal Light, Viva Caruso finds the reedman adapting orchestral melodies and harmonies to a jazz format. Inspired after reading a biography about Italian tenor and opera legend Enrico Caruso, Lovano spent most of 2000 through 2001 researching Caruso's music and developing this project. There is a progressive, third stream appeal to Viva Caruso, with the various instruments laying down intricate counter-melodies and liquid, pulsating rhythms. For example, "Vesto La Giubba" from Pagliacci is slowed down here into a kind of folk-jazz meditation, not unlike something Dave Douglas' Tiny Bell Trio might do. Likewise, "Campane a Sera" features a pretty flute introduction to a very mid-'50s, Stan Kenton-style arrangement, and Gerald Wilson could very easily have scored "Soltano a Te" with its characteristically West Coast, neo-phonic horn sounds.
Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang cut different figures. Joe was combative, a joker and man about town. Eddie was quiet, considerate and careful with money. They were born in Philadephia - Eddie in 1902, Joe in 1903 - to Italian immigrant parents. Both studied the violin. Their partnership began in their mid teens when Eddie joined Joe's newly-formed band as a guitarist. Soon they were performing as a duo. Eddie made the early running. In 1919 he joined Charlie Kerr's Orchestra as a violinist, switching to banjo.