Album review

Juan Carlos Quintero – ‘Caminando’

Juan Carlos Quintero – Caminando

(Moondo Music. Album review by John Arnett)

This is a timely and thoroughly justified re-release of an album that originally came out in 1997 under the title “The Way Home”. The music in question is spirited, uplifting and dance-inflected and will surely have broad appeal, within and beyond the boundaries of jazz. Guitarist Juan Carlos Quintero was born in Colombia, but has lived most of his life in the USA, attending Berklee, where he met fellow guitarist Tommy Tedesco who was to become his mentor and collaborator. The diverse rhythms and stylings of his native Colombia – and Latin America more broadly – are very much in evidence here, with his own very melodic and distinctive nylon string fingerstyle guitar playing very much to the fore. In addition to the guitar, the instrumentation consists of piano, bass and no less than five credited percussionists, which is a reflection of the (always subtle) rhythmic drive of the music.

Interestingly, out of the musicians here, who by the way have a stellar list of credits, Quintero is the only one from Colombia.

Title track Caminando, (YouTube below) a variation on the cha- cha- cha, is a typically infectious, driving dance groove, with an extremely catchy melody. The balance between the guitar and multifarious rhythm section is perfect, to the point that you cannot fail move to it and with it. Next up, El Pueblo, although more restrained, is an equally powerful earworm of a melody, showcasing the interplay and understanding between the spacious piano of Joe Rotondi and Quintero’s searching solo, moving inside and tantalisingly outside of the melody and tonality. This tune, as with opener El Baile, is based on the Colombian “Cumbia” folk dance tradition. Track 4 Hermanos is different again, with a distinctly cinematic, almost spaghetti western atmosphere, propulsively rhythmic, and conjuring up images of sunburnt desert landscapes and road trips. It is a powerful evocation.

Spring is another piece that positively transports you, but this time to the jungle, with a backdrop of birdsong gradually creeping in to create a soundscape that is delightful and different again. The interplay between the guitar and looping fretless bass is particularly effectively here, in the service of another appealing melody. Libre likewise features spacious and highly evocative ensemble playing, this time with piano alongside fretless bass, and with some brilliant and flowing guitar playing throughout, on both melody and solo.

The Way Home, title track of the original album, is a soulful, atmospheric ballad based loosely on the bolero form, and featuring some beautiful octave playing by the guitarist, on the melody. In complete contrast, and illustrating the versatility and range of this album and these musicians, Caribbean Sun Dance is a change of mood as well as locale. Sunny it certainly is, with its sinuous dance rhythm, whistles and timbales, playing out with an infectious, syncopated descending guitar figure. The tune is a joint composition with Kenny Hudson, all the others being credited to Quintero alone.

The quality of the recording deserves a mention too, distinguished by a beautifully clear and uncluttered analogue sound, courtesy of Hollywood’s Schnee Studios. This is amply matched by, and brings out the quality of the compositions. Add to this the sheer variety of mood and rhythm, along with the feeling, fluency and understanding between the musicians, and you have all the ingredients for a great album. It really is a treat.

Musicians: Percussion: Munyungo Jackson, Walter Rodriguez, Tiki Pasillas, Angel Figueroa, Ron Powell. Bass: Eddie Resto, Alec Milstein. Piano: Joe Rotondi. Guitars: Juan Carlos Quintero

LINK: Moondo Music website

Leave a Reply Cancel reply