REVIEW: Hector Martignon – Refugee

If you’re into Latin jazz, you might want to take a look at the new album, Refugee, by pianist Hector Martignon and his friends. If Latin jazz dominated by percussion is to your taste, then you can delete the word “might” from my first sentence, because you will absolutely love this one. It’s a lively mix of Cuban and Afro-Latin sounds, performed by piano, guitar, bass, drums and other percussion instruments.

It’s Martignon’s first album for Zoho and his third overall, and it showcases the song-writing talent and piano virtuosity that has made him one of the most in-demand musicians in Latin jazz for the last decade. He’s worked with many stars, including Mongo Santamaría, Gato Barbieri, and Tito Puente, and has recorded with Arturo Sandoval.

He wrote most of the tunes here (one through six), and cut the album in four separate recording sessions with different accompanists in each session, so there are something like sixteen different musicians joining in. Too many sidemen to name, but guest stars include bassist Eddie Gomez and Kenny Barron on electric piano. (There are more names on Hector’s website.) All the musicians are experienced and respected pros and the sounds they generate are outstanding.

Personally, I enjoy Latin jazz enormously but prefer a fuller sound, including woodwinds and even some brass, so to me, this album began to seem a little repetitive with every song driven by the percussion sound. However, there were some cuts that I did enjoy a lot, including “Observatory”, which Martignon wrote for his wife, and on which he sings for the first time. (He’s not bad.)

I also liked “Eddie’s Ready”, in which Martignon joins with bassist Eddie Gomez and attempts to evoke the spirit of the Bill Evans Trio. And I especially enjoyed the last cut, “Nothing Personal”, written by Don Golnick, a bluesy tune with an unusual and haunting sound. It was probably my favorite on the album.

Again, the key here is what’s to your taste. If percussion is your thing, you’ll find a lot to like with this album — it’s a good choice for Latin jazz lovers, but a must-have if you’re into Latin jazz with a percussion flavor.

1. Refugee
2. 99 Macdougal
3. Observatory
4. Beauty Sleep
5. Eddie’s Ready
6. Tomorrow’s Past
7. You Won’t Forget Me
8. Nothing Personal

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