Contemporary Jazz

VOICES Notes and news on Contemporary Jazz releases

Latin Sun

21 AUG 12 JONATHAN WIDRAN

On Sunshower, his sole recording for Concord Vista in 1999, renowned flutist Dave Valentin continued his genre-transcending ways and effectively combined three different styles: smooth jazz, light bebop and Latin jazz.

While fans of the smooth stuff could enjoy easygoing tunes like "Reunion" and "Embers" (featuring the cool sax of Ed Calle) and the soundscape-rich title track, he begins to stretch more artistically on a moody cover of Duke Ellington's "I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good" -- which features pianist Bill O'Connell, who wrote and arranged many of the tracks. Those are just warm-ups for the chops and improvisation-rich tracks that follow, including the Afro-Cuban/Peruvian influenced free for all "Subway Six," the whimsical, easy rolling but increasingly percussive "Sierra Madre" (featuring Steve Khan's hot electric guitar and Dave Samuels' animated vibes solo) and a brief but inventive spin through Dave Mason's "Feelin' Alright."

Song titles like "Porkchops," "Bandit" and "Space Cadet" (one of the most artful and experimental, "real jazz" pieces) help convey the fun, lighthearted spirit of the set. Valentin's history before his stop at Concord is vital to understanding his groundbreaking role in contemporary jazz.

In 1977, he made his recording debut with Ricardo Marrero's group and he appeared on a Noel Pointer album. Discovered by Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen, Valentin made history as the first artist signed to the influential GRP Records, which released 15 of his solo recordings. Ironically, he began his musical education on Latin percussion in his teens before switching to flute. His teacher, legendary flutist Hubert Laws, suggested that he not double on sax because he sounded so good on his primary instrument.