Bill Ortiz – Points of View
(Left Angle Records. Album review by Bruce Lindsay)
Trumpeter Bill Ortiz spent sixteen years as a member of Santana. The job may not have made him a household name, but it’s a clear indication that he can play. He’s also performed with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Buddy Guy, Destiny’s Child and Chick Corea, among others. All of this suggests that his third solo album(*), Points of View, should be an enjoyable and varied recording. It doesn’t disappoint.
Across the ten tracks, pianist Matt Clark, bassist Marcus Shelby, percussionist John Santos and drummer Dennis Chambers, who was a member of Santana alongside Ortiz for fourteen years, join Ortiz to make a formidable “house band,” with various guest performers making one or two appearances each. Clark, Shelby, Santos and Chambers take charge for the first minute of the album opener, Eddie Henderson’s “Sunburst,” establishing a funky, driving, beat before Ortiz appears and takes flight with a punchy solo, and they add energy and style to each of the following tunes.
Ortiz is a strong leader throughout the set, but ensures that his fellow performers have ample opportunity to showcase their own playing. The guests make strong appearances, creating ensembles that range from the quintets of “My Lord and Master” and “Okonkole y Trompa” to the nine-piece line-up on “Ain’t No Need in Crying.” Tenor saxophonist Azar Lawrence joins the line-up for three tunes, notably Wilton Felder’s “Ain’t Gon Change a Thang,” where the sax and trumpet come together with Ortiz’ electronic effects to produce a rich, upbeat, version of the Crusaders tune; electric bassist Mark van Wageningen takes over from Shelby for the joyously percussive “Fusion/Noche Cubana,” which features lead vocals from Christelle Durandy; and Carl Wheeler adds soulful Hammond B-3 to “Ain’t No Need in Crying.”
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Two songs give the album a particularly powerful and emotional centre: Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson’s “A Toast to the People,” which features Jackson on piano, and David Porter and Ronnie Williams’ “Ain’t No Need in Crying.” The songs feature gorgeous lead vocals from Terrie Odabi coupled with sympathetic, restrained, solos from Ortiz, on both tracks, and Jackson.
After nine tracks of funk, soul, hip-hop and gospel, Ortiz’ choice for the tenth is a surprise. It’s Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “My Lord and Master” from The King and I. For this tune, the line-up returns to the quintet of “Sunburst” with Clark contributing a sparkling solo and Ortiz taking charge of the melody. It’s a lovely interpretation and fits neatly into the overall mood of Points of View, an album which, even in its most reflective and meditative moments, presents a positive and optimistic message to the world.
(*) Including the EP “Winter in America”, it is his fourth solo recording.
Categories: Album reviews