"BESOS OCULTOS by MEDIA NOCHE
Review by Paul Hormick
For the last 15 years, pianist and composer Doug Robinson has lived in central Mexico and performed with the top players in that country. Now he has joined forces with three of them—percussion maestros Victor Monterrubio and Mario Alberto Torres and bassist Rubén Olvera--to form a group called Media Noche, and they’ve just released their first collection of music. The end result is called Besos Ocultos and it is lively, engaging, and a true pleasure from beginning to end.
The sound of this disk is top notch, well conveying the timbres of all the instruments. I was particularly pleased with the stereo placement of the timbales and congas, which puts the percussion neither too upfront nor plastered into the wallpaper, but right where it should be in the mix.
Robinson has always been a creative force with the jazz chops to back it up. What distinguishes him from other fine jazz performers is what might be called “emotional presence.” When he is featured on this recording, whether it’s on acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes, or organ, I feel something new from measure to measure and it is quite delightful.
The recording opens with the quaint strains of the title track, which, thanks to the violin of Pedro Cardas, harkens back to Cuban parlor music from decades past. That all changes when Robinson’s soulful Hammond organ that takes over.
One of the most inventive tracks is their rendition of the Beatles’ “Yesterday.” Without the presence of a singer and lyrics to hold a listener’s attention, an instrumental version of this perhaps overly-familiar classic risks falling flat. But the group uses harmonic variations and tricky time changes to bring new life to this much-loved song.
The one vocal selection is Stephen Stills’ ‘60s protest song “For What It’s Worth” which adds some Muscle Shoals soulfulness to the album. Singer Iraida Noriega perfectly bridges the swampy blues with a Latin backdrop.
The arrangement of the old standard “Comes Love” is straightforward, but it is here that one can appreciate Robinson’s fresh and inspired jazz improvisation. He also comps himself sparsely, giving his right hand a lot of sonic room.
“Coyote,” an introspective mid-tempo bolero, is graced by the flugelhorn of ex-pat Terry Townson. The former Ray Charles sideman was the perfect pick for this number that is both somber and joyful.
The other five selections on this 10-track compilation are equally as good as the ones that I’ve mentioned, with some great work by each player as well as special guests saxophonist David Scott, trumpeter Andrew Perruzinni and Greek trombonist Antonis Andreou.
Kudos to Media Noche and everyone associated with this effort. Besos Ocultos is a gem of a recording.
(Freelance writer Paul Hormick is a bassist as well as a horticulturist and environmentalist with a master’s degree in Environmental Science and Policy. As a writer, his interests are in the environment, current events, music, and the arts. His work has been featured in the online environmental publication Down to Earth, Strings magazine, San Diego CityBeat, and the San Diego Troubadour.)"
Last edited by Jazzooo; 06/22/19 09:52 PM.