Brandon Sanders - Compton’s Finest

Album of the Week, 01-30-24

Russ Speigel – Caribbean Blue

Ruzztone Music

Pleasant music with ample color and variety—that’s an apt description of Caribbean Blue, the latest album from California-bred, Florida-based guitarist Russ Spiegel, who has surrounded himself with world-class musicians and given them rein to canvas ten of his generally engaging compositions and bring them admirably to life.

While everything on offer is respectable, it is the album’s midsection—tracks 3-8—that rise above the others and lend the session much of its vitality and charm. After harmonica virtuoso Hendrik Meurkens enriches the album’s charming title song, the ensemble’s three horns—trumpeter Brian Lynch, tenor saxophonist Tim Armacost and trombonist Javier Nero—perform together for the first time on the lively, Caribbean-flavored “Island Song” and again on the emphatic “Slippery Slope,” soloing superbly on each of them.

The session’s lone ballad, “Inquietude,” whose Portuguese lyrics are handsomely sung by Ben Beal, precedes the nonchalant “Retribution Blues,” on which Armacost and organist Jim Gasior ensnare the even-tempered groove, a mind-set supplanted by momentum and heat on “The Streets of Milan,” a flat-out swinger wherein Lynch, Armacost and drummer Lucas Apostoleris solo with adeptness and enthusiasm—as does Spiegel. And speaking of Spiegel—who is, after all, the leader—he solos persuasively throughout, his clear and mellow guitar providing a gentle counterpoint to the horns and a glue-like foundation for the ensemble.

– Jack Bowers, All About Jazz

Russ Spiegel – electric and acoustic guitars
Jim Gasior – organ
Lucas Apostoleris – drums,
Brian Lynch – trumpet (1, 4, 5, 8)
Tim Armacost – tenor sax (1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9) & flute (2)
Javier Nero – trombone (4, 5)
Hendrik Meurkens – chromatic harmonica (2, 3, 6)
Ben Beal – vocals on “Inquietude”

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Each week, WDNA music director, Michael Valentine shares his album of the week. Michael’s picks often focus on new jazz releases, but sometimes dip into history with notable and classic releases worth revisiting.

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