Contemporary Jazz

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Spanish Hiram

29 DEC 11 JONATHAN WIDRAN

Although still renowned as the original guitarist in the Paul Shaffer-led house band on Late Night With David Letterman, Hiram Bullock's versatility as a guitarist knew few bounds -- and he even sang lead on a few tracks of Carrasco, his sole date on Fantasy Records in 1997.

While jazz fans may better remember the late musician's work with Bob James, David Sanborn and the 24th Street Band, and pop enthusiasts will note his enduring work on classics like Billy Joel's The Stranger, Steely Dan's Aja and Sting's Nothing Like The Sun, Bullock also amassed a solid solo discography. He called the mostly chill, laid back Carrasco "My Spanish album" because there's a strong Latin percussion element throughout and a prominent salsa element behind his always-stellar guitar work.

While some fans were surprised that he for the most part set aside his more fiery playing style, others welcomed the departure and appreciated his soulful vocal turns on covers of "What You Won't Do For Love" and "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing" and the originals "We're Gonna Get It Right" and the tongue in cheek "Bean Burrito."

Those who might call this Bullock's "vocal album" can head straight to a medley of Dizzy Gillespie's "Night In Tunisia" and "And The Melody Lingers On" to see Bullock's guitar electricity on prominent display. A decade later, after several more releases and overcoming throat cancer, he died in 2008 -- but not before recording Plays The Music Of Jimi Hendrix, which was released posthumously a year later.