LUIS MUNOZ/OF SOUL AND SHADOW (Pelín Music)
Based in Santa Barbara, composer and multi-instrumentalist Luis Muñoz combines the best of heart-rending Latin Jazz with the soul of Central America. He grew up in Costa Rica, attended the University of Costa Rica and the nation's National Music Conservatory; then moved to the U.S. in 1974. At UC Santa Barbara, he earned his degree in Music Composition and has written prolifically since then. His latest album explores the idioms of Costa Rican folklore, classical music and Jazz through 10 originals that swing hard or simmer gracefully: sometimes both.
Saxophonists David Binney and Tom Buckner give Muñoz the exciting sound that he wants, as his ensembles get into a groove. When trombonist Ira Nepus steps into the spotlight on "La Semilla", the heat is on. He is complemented by high note trumpeter Adolfo Acosta, as a wide array of percussion keeps the motion flowing strong. This one brings out the goose bumps! Then, Muñoz contrasts his program with Ron Kalina's soulful harmonica on "Al Silencio", which mourns confortingly to nurse the evening's woes away. The composer's drum set ties the unit together seamlessly, as blues turns into a hopeful dawn with all its positive magic.
Elsewhere, the composer brings us impressions of the tradition that has built Central America for hundreds of years. Vocals by Andy Zúñiga and more harmonica, saxophone and trumpet spotlights give the session personality. On flute, Muñoz carries a deep, heartfelt charm; on piano, he delivers with sensitivity. This recommended album rocks hard while highlighting the cultural background that makes Latin Jazz the emotional tool that has captured our heart and soul.
Jim Santella/ LA Jazz Scene