A jazz album with a hint of latin spice and a whole lot of warmth, skill and style.
Guy Hayden 2008-02-22
Ohio born Becker mixes a regular recording career with touring and teaching guitar all over the world - always a sign that someone has both a real love of their instrument and a genuine talent for it, too. Another sign of someone's class is the level of talent that they have played with - in Becker's case this includes time with Miles Davis, Chick Corea and The Yellowjackets. Pretty good company.
Leaving Argentina is Becker's 10th album in 20 years of recording and was inspired by his many recent visits to that country. Featuring, as ever, his brother Bruce on drums and the bass wunderkind Bolle Diekmann on both fretless and stand-up bass, this is essentially a trio album that is perhaps something of a rarity these days - brilliant musicianship by people with a terrific understanding of each other and their medium. Never too flashy or trying too hard to show just how brilliant they are, these three guys nonetheless play up a storm together. Each is given plenty of chance to show their chops with some blinding solos, but never to the point of outstaying their welcome or muscling in on anyone else's territory. Consequently, the overall feel of the album is warm, inviting and invigorating with the mood swinging from the rollicking uptempo numbers such as Cafe Con Leche, Rio de la Plata and Racin' Through The Andes (very Pat Metheny/Jaco Pastorius circa Bright Size Life) to the contempletive, rather lovely ballad, Hard To Say Goodbye.
The one cover on the album is a very tasteful, but elegantly and expertly played version of Keith Jarrett's Memories of Tomorrow and the latin flavour is at its most obvious with the guest appearance of Daria Polonara's bandoneon on the tango of It Takes Two.
I admit to some nervousness when seeing that this album was influenced by Argentina and other Latin countries - this sort of inspiration can so often be overplayed to the extent of seeming false and forced, or just as bad be so hard to find in the music as to be almost pointless. Here, the latin flavour is used as just that. A flavour. Enough of it to give the musicians a sense of structure to explore their way around but never too much to be kitsch or unwelcome. This is a jazz album with a hint of latin spice and a whole lot of warmth, skill and style. A really lovely album, in fact.