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Tiempo Libre

Performance Today

Sir James and the Cubans

Performance Today

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

by Fred Child

James Galway is reviving what must be the second most popular flute piece of the 20th century (after Aqualung): Claude Bolling's 1975 Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio.

The original recording featured legendary flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal alongside Bolling's jazz trio: piano, bass, drums. Galway is teaming up with members of the Cuban jazz band Tiempo Libre: piano, six string electric bass, drums, and congas. Bolling's trio specialized in elegance, Tiempo Libre specializes in powerful Latin grooves.

Galway wrapped up a weekend in Minneapolis this spring with the Minnesota Orchestra, and since Tiempo Libre was in town for a Monday night gig, Galway stuck around for a night so they could try out their Bolling in public for the first time. The Dakota Jazz Club was packed...somehow word had gotten around, even though it was billed only as "Tiempo Libre and special guest." (I got a heads-up from Galway's publicist.)

While the music is very much a collaboration, Galway was clearly running the show. He was front and center on stage, his usual jocular self, doing all the banter (including one somewhat uncomfortable moment when he asked pianist Jorge Gomez to introduce the band...after which Galway said "they all sound the same to me").

What I heard is nothing to judge the polished project by, it was simply a first run-through. But several sections of Bolling's Suite came unexpectedly to life, propelled by the *incredible* rhythm section of Tiempo Libre. In the slower pieces, the band was still finding its way...unsure how to comp behind the more sentimental (some might say syrupy) sections of the piece. I look forward to hearing how they've worked out the kinks.

Jorge Gomez should be a great collaborator for Galway -- a classically trained pianist who can improvise at speed and fit snugly into the deep Cuban clave and rumba rhythms generated by drummer Hilario Bell and conga master Leandro Gonzalez. When Galway learns the names of his bandmates, this could be a terrific concert piece for crossover audiences.

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