Gregory I & II
For two decades, José Miguel Crego's group, El Greco for the musicians and the public, remains one of the strongest pillars of Cuban jazz and its presence is almost essential at the Jazz Plaza festivals in Havana, the Jazz Café , La Zorra y el Cuervo or the radio and television musical spaces. If we ask ourselves in what lies the ubiquity and popularity of El Greco, apart from his consistent virtuosity, there are plenty of reasons: good taste, tenacity, perfectionism, innovative spirit, professionalism.
First line trumpeter, El Greco became known among the jazz audience when he joined the second version of Irakere —who recorded the important LP Tierra en trance— where he joined that formidable metal trio with Jorge Varona and Juan Murguia. Later he participated briefly, with other former members of Irakere such as Germán Velazco, Carios Averhoff and José Luis Cortés, the coarse, in the first edition of NG La Banda, which started the boom of Cuban timba or salsa. But El Greco's jazz concerns went elsewhere, and we soon heard him at the Jazz Plaza festivals leading his own Top Secret group. Thus began a new stage as a leader.
Recorded at the Halifax Jazz Festival, Canada, this double CD reproduces the live performances of El Greco, with a septet made up of four other Cuban and two Canadian musicians. It is noteworthy here that José Miguel Crego expresses a preference for the flugelhorn (fluegelhorn) and the muted trumpet, instruments with which he obtains new sonorities. But, in addition, his dedication to composing and arranging a good part of his repertoire is evident, nuanced with jazz classics, jazz rock, pop, samba or bossa nova. Examples of this are: Solar by Miles Davis, Mr PC by John Coltrane, night and day by Cole Porter, and The girl from Ipanema by Antonio Carlos Jobim. Other numbers performed in Halifax are by El Greco.
Sometimes El Greco makes us evoke the Miles Davis of the period 1957-1967 with his introspective and fresh (and sometimes explosive) style, either in the one with the flugelhorn or in lover song (bossa) or on the trumpet with mute on Solar, precisely from Miles himself. and in the ballad Song for Maggie we associate him rather with Chet Baker, the most lyrical of jazz trumpeters. Whereas in Joy with jazz rock passages and the “open” trumpet (without mute), we recall the vibrant and fierce style of the Irakere times. A musician who uses his impeccable technique based on expressiveness, El Greco also does not resist a practice that American jazz critics never quite understand and that is a tradition among Cubans: that of quoting or "interpolating" fragments of other numbers, with skill and ease. Here El Greco cites pieces of popular classics such as Fascinatin' Rhythm, Laura, Tequila, Taste of me, hey jude, Straight, not chaser, out of tune, plains soul, cute little sky, take the train and others, with considerable precision.
The ensemble work of the septet surprises us with its richness and perfection, sometimes using unison between flugelhorn tenor sax-guitar, or the three harmonized voices, and often counterpoint. Without losing its stylistic unity, each number receives a different treatment, and each new audition brings us surprises and subtleties that we had not noticed. A good example is the whole part where you go from bossa nova rhythm and tempo to a ballad and then to the original soft little thing, perfect combination of mambo and latin jazz. follows him night and day, with the classic bass of swing to four beats (walking bass), to close with the move Samba Faldvel.
In the second part, with Solar, Joy, Mr PC. Y The girl from Ipanema, the changes of rhythm and tempo become more elaborate, as well as the counterpoints between the soloists and the constant interplay or interaction between soloists and rhythmic accompaniment. Let us highlight the work of Jeff Good Speed, who shared the musical direction with El Greco, brilliant in the post-Coltrane style and sound tenor sax, his execution of the soprano sax and the flute practically triples the orchestral and timbre possibilities of the group. No less impressive is the participation of Jorge Valdés Chicoy, one of the most phenomenal Cuban jazz guitarists (a veteran of the Felipe Dulzaides, Arturo Sandoval and Hilario Durán groups).
Another soloist of surprising virtuosity is the pianist Bernardo Antonio (Tony) Rodríguez, who in more than one aspect reminds us of Emiliano Salvador, today a Latin jazz legend. No less effective is bassist Raúl Tobías Gil (Aby), both in his solos and in the rhythm section completed by Canadian drummer Tom Roch and percussionist Eugenio Arango; together, they drive the group with incredible cohesion, which fosters immediate communication with the public. With complex structures and harmonies, varied rhythms, virtuosity and, above all, original expressive ideas, this septet brought together by El Greco ensures that the two CDs are fully enjoyed from beginning to end and not only by initiates, but by the most diverse audiences and likes. more with each new audition. We would say, suggesting the definition of the pianist and composer Horace Silver, that this is achieved by bringing together the essential elements of all good jazz, energy, emotion and intellect. Which, added to relaxation and good taste, constitutes a combination that can never fail.